January 23, 2011

Some small treasures

Another day cataloguing, and many more exciting discoveries....

This small group have a lot in common. The miniature was purchased as an anonymous nobleman, and after extensive brain-storming I finally found the order he is wearing: an orange sash across his chest. This is the Prussian Order of the Black Eagle, and was the highest order possible for the Prussian gentry. Naturally the crown prince was awarded it, and combined with other clues (he wears ermine - a symbol of Royalty- and the red robe to one side is embroided with gold Prussian crowns) the portrait suddenly became very exciting: it is a good image of Frederick II of Prussia, also known as Frederick the Great. The quality is supreme. Lining up the portraits I could find showed that this is apparently a fresh one, I suspect somewhere in the 1740's.

By coincidence, I have a wonderful German enamel box with various manuscripts painted on it, including an almanac for 1757, and on top of the documents is a manuscript reading Frederick the Great, King of Prussia. Inside is a music manuscript, titled 'Mennuet': this is interesting, as Frederick was not only a well proven military man by 1757: he also had composed over 100 sonatas for the flute, and four symphonies!

Beside this you can make out a bronze medal, also dated 1757, and struck to commemorate the Battle of Prague in that year. The battle was a success for the Prussians, as they soundly beat their old foe, the Austrians. Prague, however, was not taken by Frederick, but besieged and then rescued by an Austrian counter attack which led to Frederick's first defeat at the battle of Kolin. That, of course, is left off both the box and the medal!

The other boxes in the images above are English enamels, and one rather splendid Meissen example painted with minute tavern and peasant life scenes. As a group, all items belong to an age, the 1750-70 period which was so lavish and decadent across Europe. Having items relating to Frederick is exciting, and they will be a main feature in our upcoming Exhibition and catalogue.

All these items will be released for sale in our 2011 exhibition, date to be announced shortly.

The South Staffordshire enamels above are rarities; the lions head is very charismatic , the snuff very unusual in having a Venetian scene printed & painted on it. Both date to the 1780's.