This cadinett, apparently one of six, was part of a magnificent dinner-service in matted silver-gilt ordered by Augustus the Strong from Augsburg presumably for the wedding celebrations of Augustus's one legitimate son the Electoral Crown Prince, Frederick Augustus. He married the Archduchess Maria Josepha, daughter of the Emperor Joseph I and Wilhelmina Amalia of Brunswick-Luneburg on September 13, 1719. He succeeded his father in 1733 as Augustus II of Saxony and Augustus III of Poland.
The 1718 silver-gilt dinner-service described as "doppelt matt vergoldet" (silver with dull gilding) descended in the Albertine line of the house of Wettin until some time between the First and Second World Wars, when much of it was sold. A 1723 inventory of the service entitled "Ein matt vergoldtes Silbern Tafel-Servis, welches S: Konigl. Mayt. in Augsburg ao: 1718 habebn verferttigen lassen" (A matt gilded silver table service which his Royal Majesty had made in Augsburg in 1718) lists only four cadinetts. As there was not really a German word for cadinetts, they are described as "BrodtTeller; zu ieden ein Eyer Schäalgen" (bread plates; with each an egg-?peeler) and listed with their weights in Marks, Lots and Quents (reproduced by Arnold, U. in Dresdner Hofsilber des 18. Jahrhunderts, Dresden, 1994, p. 64). The only other surviving cadinett or bread plate from this service, and apparently the only other known German example of the form, is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (acc. no. 1974.356.775). The Metropolitan Museum example was first discussed by Hackenbroch, Y. (German Silver of the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries, The Connoisseur, May 1977, p. 54 and fig. 6) and more recently by Arnold, U. (op. cit., p. 72) and Koeppe, W. (Mobel und Schaustücke in Liselotte von der Pfalz, Madame am Hofe des Sonnenkönigs, Exhibition Catalogue, Heidelberg, Sep. 21 1996 - Jan. 26 1997, p. 186, fig. 8). Unlike the present example, it is not only engraved with a number - No. 4 - but also with an engraved weight that corresponds exactly with that on the 1723 inventory. As six cadinetts are recorded in a Nineteenth Century inventory, and the present example is engraved with the distinctive coat-of-arms and mantling used on the 1718 service (see Arnold, U., op. cit., fig. 33), the most likely explanation is that nos. 5 and 6 were missed, perhaps locked away, at the time the inventory was drawn up. Two of the six cadinetts are illustrated in photographs taken of the Dresden Hofsilberkammer in 1904 (reproduced in Arnold, U., op. cit., pls. 7 and 8), and one appears on a table setting photographed in Schloss Moritzburg in 1933 (Arnold, U., op. cit., pl. 39).
A number of magnificent silver-gilt dishes and covers from the 1718 service, which was added to in 1730 and 1733, have appeared at auction. Five of these in various sizes, dating from 1729-1730, were by Christian Winter of Augsburg who seems to have supplied most or all of the 1730 additions. A pair of dishes by Mentzel, 39.3cm. (15 7/8in.) diam. and a smaller pair also by him, 1717-1718, with covers by Winter, 1729-1733, were included in the Patino Collection, Christie's New York, 28 October 1986, lots 260 and 261 (see footnote for details of the recorded dishes and covers).
Strictly limited in their use to the King and Queen and the immediate Royal family and, in some countries, in addition, to the most important nobles in the land, the cadinett almost by definition is one of the rarest objects in silver to survive. Its function is indicated by the instruction given for the banquet in the Dresden Residenz to celebrate the wedding of the Electoral Crown Prince, Frederick Augustus, on September 3, 1719. "Auf die Tafel wird vor den Konig und die ...Konigin ein sogennantes Cadenat, oder viereckichtes vergoldetes Besteecke gesetzt, darin Saltz, Pfeffer und desgleichen, in gewissen Fachern vorhandern." (Onto the table is laid before the King and the ...Queen a so-called Cadenat, or rectangular gilded piece of table-silver, in which salt, pepper and suchlike is therein, in specific compartments.)
Rectangular in form, with a closed compartment for salt and pepper and/or other spices, and a flat tray on which was placed the King's bread and napkin, cadinetts resemble and, in the case of almost all the extant examples, have indeed been confused with, inkstands. The cadinett however had a much more significant and less mundane function. As the container for the Monarch's eating accessories, and guarded by his trusted retainers, the cadinett would, in theory at least, protect the King and Queen from poisoning. It is interesting to note that the French word for cadinett, cadenas, also has a second meaning "padlock", which may well derive from the locks put on cadinetts to protect their contents. The significance of the cadinett became such that the right to use one could be bestowed as a particular mark of Royal favour; indeed, during the late 17th Century the greatest honour a King could bestow on a fellow monarch was to lend him his cadinett. The cadinett can thus be compared with the Mediaeval nef as a mark of social standing and its appearance probably in the mid-16th Century coincides with the decline of the nef (a container formed as a model of a ship and used both as a decoration and as the container for the king's napkin and eating utensils - see Lightbown, R., Secular Goldsmith's Work in Mediaeval France: A History, Dorking, 1978, pp. 30-31). However there are recorded instances where both nef and cadinett were used together on a Royal table, the bread and utensils being divided between them. Cadinetts seem to have been used perhaps most widely in the Royal courts of Europe in the second half of the 17th Century and were certainly already falling out of widespread use by the time the present example was made in the first quarter of the 18th Century.
While surviving cadinetts are extraordinarily rare, a number of designs for them are recorded including one for a gold cadinett for Louis XV, circa 1727, now in the Collection of the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris (Cabinet des Estampes). The only other known German extant example is the one made also as part of Augustus the Strong's 1718 service, mentioned above. There appear to be three other known European examples dating from the 17th and 18th Centuries and these are all English. The earliest reference to a cadinett in England is in an account of the coronation banquet of Charles II in April 1661. Though he was not to marry Catherine of Braganza until the following year, it may be that the introduction of the cadinett to England came about as a result of an Iberian connection. The French word cadenas might perhaps have a Spanish derivation and at least one of the English Royal cadinetts is accompanied by two pots with a finial formed as the letter V, reminiscent of the A and V letters found on European altar cruets. However, perhaps more significantly, A and V letter finials are also found on Spanish secular pots, standing for Aceite (oil) and Vinagre (vinegar) (see Gold and Silver of the Atocha and Santa Margarita, Christie's New York, June 14, 1988, introduction and lot 62). In any event two English cadinetts, one of which, by Anthony Nelme, 1688-9, was presumably used at the wedding banquet of William and Mary in April, 1689, remained in the Royal collection until the early 19th Century when some of this plate was sold off to the Royal Goldsmiths, Rundells. Rundells apparently sold them to the Lonsdale family, and they remained in that family until their sale, negotiated by Christie's, to the Nation in 1976. They are now in the Collection of the Jewel House at the Tower of London (see Christie's Review of the Year, 1976-1977, pp. 212-213, C. Ponter, A Private Sale of Royal Plate). A third English example, also by Nelme but 1696, altered to an inkstand with an added 18th Century box, is also recorded (see Brett, V., The Sotheby's Directory of Silver 1600-1940, London, 1986, no. 548
We are grateful to Dr. William Koeppe of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York and Dr. Ulli Arnold for their help in the preparation of this catalogue entry.