An elaborate flower basin or something more exclusive? Discoveries made about this Walters treasure revealed soon at The Frick Collection.
Recent research for an upcoming exhibition on Johann Christian Neuber, (1736−1808), one of Dresden’s most famous goldsmiths and court jeweler to Friedrich Augustus III, elector of Saxony has unearthed an intriguing story and a significant new attribution for a piece at the Walters. Preparatory drawings recently uncovered in the archives of the Royal Meissen Porcelain Manufactory made possible the attribution to Neuber of what was originally thought to be a flower basin made in Russia in the late-eighteenth or early-nineteenth century. Not only the piece has been reattributed, but its original function and provenance have been clarified. It is not a flower basin at all. In fact, it is one of seven bases made to support allegorical groups of Meissen porcelain that formed the magnificent centerpiece for a princely dining table. They were part of a diplomatic gift from Friedrich Augustus III to Prince Nikolai Wasilyevitch Repnin (1732–1801), the Russian emissary at the Treaty of Teschen that restored peace in Europe in 1779. Of this extravagant gift, only two bases have been definitively identified: the piece at the Walters, and another in a private collection in Paris. Although the allegorical Meissen groups offered to Repnin are now lost, two groups made at the same time and from the same molds remained in Dresden, allowing a partial reconstruction of Repnin’s exceptional centerpiece. The Frick Collection is the only venue where the Walters’ base will be reunited with its Meissen porcelain group, now part of the Porcelain Collection of the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden. The two bases and their groups will be seen together in New York for the first time in nearly a hundred years.
Gold, Jasper, and Carnelian: Johann Christian Neuber at the Saxon Court is co-organized by Grünes Gewölbe, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, The Frick Collection, and Galerie J. Kugel, Paris. The exhibition’s presentation at The Frick Collection is coordinated by Director Ian Wardropper and Charlotte Vignon, Associate Curator of Decorative Arts. Support for the New York presentation has been generously provided by Walter and Vera Eberstadt, Aso O. Tavitian, Margot and Jerry Bogert, and an anonymous donor. This travelling exhibition is accompanied by a lavishly illustrated publication (Paul Holberton publishing, London, and in French by Editions d’Art Monelle Hayot, under the direction of Alexis Kugel) which will contain all the research undertaken on the Walters’ piece. The English edition (ISBN: 978 1 907372 36 0, hardback, 400 pages, 568 color illustrations) is available for $150, member price, $135, in the Museum Shop, on the Frick’s Web site (www.frick.org), and by phone at (212) 547-6848.