Royal Silver Ensemble: Two French Tureens and a German Tureen with Stand. Property of Ernst August I, King of Hanover
The pair of smaller silver tureens were made in Paris 1798/1809 by Henri Auguste, one of the leading French silversmiths in Paris. The large silver tureen on stand was made in Augsburg in 1811 by Johann Georg Christoph Neuss.
All three tureens get their form from ancient Greek and Roman vases, while they particularly remind of the form of the so-called Kantharos. All three tureens are perfectly proportioned. A cast coat of arms of the House Brunswick-Lüneburg is applied on the front side of the lid of all three objects. All three tureens have finally a removable insert, which is gilt inside.
The two French, round tureens are raised on a high and round foot, decorated with a gadroons-frieze. The node between the shaft of the foot and the corpus of the vessel is adorned with a ring of stylised flowers and palmette in relief. The body is round and left smooth. An applied, decorative frieze of naturalistic motifs nicely decorates the rim of the tureen. Two short, ear-shaped, cast handles are attached on the sides. The lid of the tureens is nearly flat, left smooth and has as a finial knob a sculptural composition made of two cast snakes, which form a node.
The larger tureen has an almost similar shape as the former two, earlier vessels, albeit it has a clearly imposing size and an elaborated execution. The tureen is placed on a large, oval stand that has four cast lion’s feet. The rand of the stand is decorated with a gadrooned frieze and on its upper part with a frieze of flowers and palmette. The bright, round, high foot is also adorned with a gadroons-frieze. Every other decorative element is similar to the ones of the two smaller tureens. The difference lies in the lid, which is clearly vaulted, as well as the side handles, which are according to the proportions higher.
European Silversmiths and the Development of Styles
The French artist Jean-Guillaume Moitte (1746-1810) has most probably made the design for the tureens. The sculptor Jean-Guillaume Moitte was also active in the atelier of the silversmith Henri Auguste, for whom Moitte has prepared numerous drawings. Jean-Guillaume has won an international fame for his design creations destined for silver. Typical features of his designs are the lion’s feet and the snakes that build up a node. Most of his drawings remained in the atelier of Auguste and were sold to the goldsmith Jean-Baptiste-Claude Odiot in 1810, together with other drawings.
The significant effect of Neoclassicism in objects made of silver began to be evident since the 1770s. This style was completely different from the rococo. For this new, cool, strict, distanced and intellectual style, the silversmiths drew their inspiration for ornaments from pattern books on architecture and on archaeology (for instance books on vases and frescoes).
Pioneers in the publication of pattern books for ornaments in France were Charles Percier and Pierre François L. Fontaine, who published in 1801 an album with tables on decorative motifs. In 1812, they have published their work again, but this time with text. Parts in relief, cast and applied are quite typical for this period of Neoclassicism, or rather of the Empire style – and in fact of its first period, between 1804-1814.
Tableware for the European Courts
All three present tureens bear the coat of arms of the House Brunswick-Lüneburg. Hanover was during 1803-1811 occupied by France and it is thus secure to assume that the tureens were prepared after the liberation and for the marriage of Ernest Augustus I of Hanover with Frederica of Mecklenburg-Strelitz in 1815.
The three tureens in neoclassical style represent a typical example of the European orders in different silversmiths’ atelier of the royal and princely houses in Europe. King George III (1738-1820), father of Ernest Augustus, have had made at the end of eighteenth century his silver service – a very important ensemble of the early neoclassicism – by Robert-Joseph Auguste in Paris and Franz Peter Bundsen in Hanover. The silver holdings of the court in Hanover were among the most important ones in Germany. The silver mines in the Harz Mountains explain also these important silver treasures of the Welf. At the end of the eighteenth and at the beginning of the nineteenth century, the silver tableware was a very important part of the royal and noble representation of power.
Henri Auguste was born on the 18th March 1759 as the only son of the courtly goldsmith Robert-Josef Auguste. Since 1784/85 he also received orders from Louis XVI and later also from Napoleon. Auguste was one of the leading silversmiths on Neoclassicism and Empire and his rivals were Jean-Baptiste-Claude Odiot and Martin-Guillaume Biennais.
Johann Georg Christoph Neuss was born in 1774 (a Protestant) and became a master maker in 1803. During 1825-28, he was a proofer of gold and silver made objects; in 1833 and 1834, he was the director of the guild. He died in 1857. His atelier produced objects until 1864. Johann G. Chr. Neuss has completed the royal service (s. Seling 3090g, fig. 1096). His works are to be found for example in the Silver Collections of the Residence in Munich, in St-Anna in Augsburg and in Kestner Museum in Hanover.