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THE PROPERTY OF MRS ALTHEA DUNDAS-BEKKER, REMOVED FROM ARNISTON HOUSE, MIDLOTHIAN
THE MOCENIGO-CORNARO GARNITURE
Since the sale of the extraordinary Meissen tea and coffee-service bearing the same accollée arms in these Rooms two years ago1, Maureen Cassidy-Geiger has discovered previously unpublished information which reveals both the identity of its recipient and that it was a Royal gift. The same source also tantalisingly alludes to the present vases2.
The discovery was made in the Sächsisches Hauptstaatsarchiv in Dresden, which holds five bound volumes of letters written between Joseph Gabaleon, Count Wackerbarth-Salmour (1722-1763) and Count Brühl3. Count Wackerbarth-Salmour accompanied the teenage Crown Prince of Saxony, Friedrich Christian (1722-1763), on his visit to Naples and his subsequent travels in Italy, and the letters record the daily business of the Prince's visit.
Written in French, the correspondence reveals that the Mocenigo-Cornaro service was not a commission, but in fact a gift from the King Augustus III to Madame Pisana Mocenigo (née Corner or Cornaro) in 1740. This gift, which was specific to Madame Mocenigo, is mentioned in the dispatch of 11th February 1740: 'Vôtre Excellence ne me dit mot sur ce que j'ai pris la liberté de lui mander en mjme tems au sujet de Made. Pisana Mocenigo. Devrai je donc conjecturer que la Generosité du Roi lui ait destine un present different?'4. On 25th March the same year, another dispatch records that 'designs' of the Mocenigo and Cornaro arms were sent to Dresden: 'Je joins ici le dessein que Votre Excellence m'a demandé des armes de Mad. Pisana Mocenigo pour le Service de Porcellaine que S.M. lui destine'5.
It is less clear what was given to Madame Pisana's husband, Alvise IV Giovanni Mocenigo6. A letter dated 18th May 1740 does confirm that he was also a recipient of porcelain from the King, as it mentions both of them '..les presens destines à Elle et à Son Mari..'7. The existence of these Augustus Rex vases leaves little doubt that the gift must have been, or must have certainly included, a garniture of vases, of which the present three vases are the principal part.
The precise reason for the Royal gift is still unclear, and it could have been made for one of the following reasons, or a combination of them. Firstly, it was customary for a travelling prince to give diplomatic gifts or gifts in thanks for hospitality. During his two-year stay in Italy the dispatches record the constant stream of precious objects that was supplied to Friedrich Christian for him to give away. Of the four nobles who were assigned to accompany him during his stay in Venice, it appears that Alvise Mocenigo was the principal character, so it would therefore be natural for him to receive an important gift. But although Alvise appears to have been the Prince's principal chaperone, it is interesting to note that during his visit, the Prince stayed at the Palazzo Foscari, and not with the Mocenigos.
Another fact that could have influenced the gift is that ties between the King and the Mocenigo family already existed. When Augustus had been on the Grand Tour himself as a young man, he had stayed with the Mocenigos in both 1713 and 1716. It should also be noted that Alvise had married Pisana Cornaro only a year earlier in 1739, and this could also have had a bearing on the gift.
The King most probably ordered the vases and the service to thank the Mocenigo family for their hospitality to his son. If it had been his specific intention to celebrate Alvise's wedding in 1739, the designs illustrating the coats of arms would have been requested and sent to Dresden much earlier than March 1740.
It is clear however that the gift was intended to be presented by the Crown Prince, as he became increasingly concerned that the porcelain would not arrive before his departure for Austria in June 1740. He presented the Mocenigos with interim gifts of a needlecase and a snuff-box, and apologised that the porcelain had not yet been delivered. This apology is recorded in a letter dated 18th May: 'Madame Mocenigo m'a assure n'avoir point encore reçu la lettre du Roi qui selon la Note du Cabinet jointe à la lettre de V.E. du 14. Avril, n'ayant pû être Signée le même jour devoit lui être envoyée par la poste Suivante. Mais les presens destines à Elle et à Son Mari m'ayant bien été remis par Stanglini, Monseig. Le Prince Royal n'a pas voulû se retarder le plaisir de Leur donner ces nouvelles marques de l'attention gracieuse de S.M. En echange des politesses infinies qu'il reçoit de la familee Mocenigo et de l'attachement respectueux que celle ci temoigne pour toutte la maison Royale. S.A.Rle. s'etant donc rendue avant hier ches cette Dame sous pretexte de voir son Mari qui est indispose, presenta à Elle la montre et l'Etui, et à lui la Tabatiere'.8
The porcelain finally arrived in June 1740. Although the full contents of the delivery are currently not known, the garniture appears to have included a further two vases. One of these vases, decorated with the same accollée arms above a battle scene, was sold in these Rooms in 1967,9 and the whereabouts of the other is unknown. In common with the present two lots, the cartouche and gilt borders of this additional vase are related yet different from the others in the garniture. The geometric border on the bulbous part of the flared neck is not found on the present vases. The flared shape of the neck implies that it would once have been one of two vases which flanked the present central vase.
A garniture of five vases including two of this form flanking a similar central vase, but with two beaker-shaped outer vases, is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.10 As with the present lots, the cartouches and borders are related but different from each other, and the two vases with flared necks are of slightly different heights. Although it is possible that the present garniture could have included more than five vases, it is unlikely. This suggests that the two vases in lot 400 are in fact a pair, even though they are not quite of the same height.
A variety of print sources were probably used as inspiration for the decoration. Although the hunting scenes do not appear to match the engravings by Georg Christoph Steudler after J.E. Ridinger precisely, some elements from them appear to have been used; the figures riding across the bridge on the reverse of one of the vases in lot 400 are very similar to those in Die par-force-Jagd11, and two of the three huntsmen shooting waterfowl on the other vase in the same lot appear to derive (in reverse) from two figures in another print after Ridinger.12
The Mocenigo-Cornaro tea and coffee-service was undoubtedly painted by Bonaventura Gottlieb Häuer, and four of the pieces are signed by him. The sea battle on the present central vase, which almost certainly alludes to the celebrated victory at Lepanto,13 is very similar to the sea battles found on the service. However, the waterfowl hunting scene on the reverse of the right-hand vase in lot 400 bears a strong similarity, both in subject and treatment, with a scene on one of the vases14 made for Augustus III's hunting lodge, Schloss Hubertusberg. Two other vases from the same Schloss Hubertusberg garniture, now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (Untermeyer Collection), are illustrated by Yvonne Hackenbroch, op. cit., pl. 74 and on p. 125 the scenes are attributed to J.G. Heintze. Hackenbroch also points out that it has been traditionally held that a characteristic of Heintze's work is single dead branches on trees. Both the scenes on the reverses of the vases in lot 400 have got trees with single dead branches. But the scenes on the vases also appear to have elements which are typical of Häuer's work, namely the use of figures painted in brown camaïeu, and in the case of the reverse of the central vase, dark foreground figures and motifs.
The circumstances of how the tea and coffee-service and the garniture came to be in England in the 19th century is still unknown. The service is known to have been in the possession of the Earls of Lichfield by the 1860s as it was exhibited by the Dowager Countess in Leeds in 1868. The garniture is known to have been at Arniston House in 1868, but how it came to be in the possession of the Dundas family is also unclear.
The upkeep of the Mocenigo's palazzo must have been enormous, especially as their palazzo actually included four large palazzi joined together15. So it is interesting to note that not long after the gift from Augustus III, Mocenigo family pictures were sold by Mr Prestage in London in a two-day sale on 2nd-4th February 1764. The sale of 'a most capital collection of pictures, of the most celebrated masters, purchased out of many noble families in Italy' appears to have been sourced principally from Venetian families, including the Mozenigo family (sic.). It is possible that the garniture could possibly have been sold to an agent at about this time. But it is also possible that the vases could have been acquired directly by Sir Robert Dundas, Bt. (1823-1909) who visited Venice with his family in 1844, 1845 and 1856. Sadly the family papers do not appear to contain any references to him buying any porcelain.
1. Anon., sale Christie's London, 8th July 2002, lot 261. This service is discussed by H.E. Backer, 'Ein Meissener Wappenservice von Bonaventura Gottlieb Häuer', Freunde der Schweizer Keramik no. 13 (July, 1949), pp. 11-12 and pieces are illustrated on pl. 1.
2. Maureen Cassidy-Geiger, '"Je reçus le Soir le monde marqué" A Crown Prince of Saxony on the Grand Tour in Italy, 1738-1740', The International Fine Art and Antique Dealers Show, Catalogue (New York, October 2004), pp. 21-31. The research for the article was undertaken by the author in preparation for the Bard Graduate Center Exhibition, Fragile Diplomacy: Meissen Porcelain for European Courts in the Eighteenth Century, scheduled for 2007. We are extremely grateful for Maureen Cassidy-Geiger's help with the catalogue note for this lot.
3. Heinrich, Count von Brühl (1700-1763), Prime Minister of Saxony and Director of the Meissen factory.
4. Sächsisches Hauptstaatsarchiv, Dresden, Loc. 769 2, Vol. V, fol. 319.
5. Ibid., fol. 417.
6. Alvise IV Giovanni Mocenigo (1701-1778), Venetian Ambassador to Naples and later Doge of Venice in 1763.
7. Sächsisches Hauptstaatsarchiv, Dresden, Loc. 769 1, Vol. IV, fol. 516v.-517.
8. Loc. cit., fol. 516v.-517.
9. Anon., sale Christie's, 13th March 1967, lot 157. It is interesting to note that this vase also bore the same Dreher's incised XII mark on the footrim.
10. Yvonne Hackenbroch, 'Meissen and other Continental Porcelain Faience and Enamel in the Irwin Untermyer Collection', Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York Catalogue (London, 1956), pl. 75.
11. Illustrated by Wolfe Stubbe, Johann Elias Ridinger (Berlin, 1966), pl. 6.
12. Abbildungen der Jagtbonen (Augsburg, 1740), pl. 86.
13. Luigi Mocenigo became Doge of Venice in 1570, and the following year a combined Venetian, Spanish and Papal fleet defeated the Turks at Lepanto on the 7th of October 1571. The Cornaro family also had a historic connection with the Turks. Caterina Cornaro who was adopted by the Venetian state on the negotiation of her marriage to James II King of Cyprus ('James the Bastard'). After his and their infant son's death Caterina ruled Cyprus as Queen for 16 years until, with the assistance of her brother Giorgio, she was persuaded to relinquish her crown in favour of the Venetian republic. Once Venice had acquired its toehold in the eastern Mediterranean, Caterina was accorded honour, status and the fief of Asolo, and she died in Venice in 1510.
14. One of a pair of beaker vases from the Jörg Nelte Collection, sale Christie's London, 12th October 1995, lot 70.
15. Lord Byron rented part of the Palazzo Mocenigo in 1818-19.