Although Augsburg and Dresden were 200 miles apart, the relationship was key to establishing an effective distribution network for German porcelain and for ‘upgrading’ it with gold and silver mounts.
Perhaps the most spectacular of these collaborations is the famous centrepiece in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam that combines a silver-gilt frame featuring the maker’s mark of Johann Engelbrecht (c.1673-1748) with a tea service made of Meissen porcelain decorated with chinoiserie scenes by Johann Gregorius Höroldt.
The furniture and works of art sale at Lempertz in Cologne on May 20 included another example of this happy partnership: a Régence period silver-gilt and porcelain cutlery set in its original leather case.
Numbering 36 pieces, the 12 knives and 12 forks are fitted with Meissen handles painted in underglaze blue, iron red and gilt with Oriental flowers and fanciful birds. Engelbrecht’s marks date them to 1721-25.
Cutlery sets with porcelain handles in the ‘Japanese taste’ were extremely popular at the courts of Europe in the 1720s. Order books in the archives of the Porzellansammlung, Dresden, note ‘36 blue and red knife handles enamelled with gold for knives, forks and spoons’ were sent to Warsaw on October 16, 1724, ‘by the most gracious high royal command’ of the factory founder Augustus the Strong himself.
Only a handful of similar complete sets are known today, although two were owned by the industrialist Ernst Schneider (1900-77) whose collection, donated to the Bavarian state in 1968, is now on view at Lustheim Castle outside Munich. Both are pictured in Julia Weber’s 2013 book Meissen Porcelains with East Asian decoration in the Ernst Schneider Collection.
Lempertz’s set, estimated at €45,000-50,000, came for sale from a German private collection where it had been for almost 30 years. It got away at €46,000 (£41,800) plus 25% buyer’s premium, selling to a German museum.