THE ENGLISH TASTE IN GERMANY
The two bureaux-cabinets (lots 252 and 253) from the Royal House of Saxony provide an eloquent demonstration of the widespread popularity of this very English form of furniture which originated in the late 17th and early 18th century. During this period cabinet makers across Northern Europe, from The Hague to Copenhagen and particularly in northern Germany, were strongly influenced by English furniture designs, and the bureau-cabinet, often simply called 'English cabinet', came to epitomise this development.
The English influence was particularly prevalent in Dresden, the famed artistic centre dominated by the court of August the Strong (1670-1733), Elector of Saxony and King of Poland. Both bureaux-cabinets may have been made for August the Strong or for his son, Frederick August, who as Polish king was known as August III. Towards the end of his life, August the Strong ordered a large number of bureaux cabinets: in 1727, for example, an astonishing fifty-five were delivered to the court. An inventory of Schloss Moritzburg drawn up on the Elector's death in 1733 lists twenty-one bureaux-cabinets, and an inventory compiled a year later of the contents of Schloss Pillnitz mentions as many as fifty-five (G. Haase, Dresdener Moebel des 18. Jahrhunderts, Leipzig 1983, pp. 39-40).
As early as 1731, the Dresden cabinetmaker's guild permitted an apprentice the Verfertigung eines Englischen Schreibe Schranks zum Meister Stück [manufacture of an English writing cabinet as masterpiece] and in 1733-34 such pieces were officially introduced as the masterpiece required. That even the enormously conservative guild organisation could no longer ignore the fast-growing popularity of the novel bureau-cabinet, demonstrates the strength of the 'English look' in Germany. Although the Dresden bureau-cabinets adhere closely to English models in the use of timbers, details of construction and their general form, it quickly acquired a distinct identity of its own. The appetite for all things Chinese was prevalent elsewhere in Europe particularly in England and France but it is pertinent to see how the August the Strong's determination to imitate Chinese porcelain in the newly founded Meissen factory, results in Chinoiserie permeating Dresden furniture designs too, interior schemes as a whole.