The Inventory of Silver of the Royal and Electoral Court, Hanover, 1747 entitled 'Complete inventory of the court silver comprising all his Royal Majesty our most gracious lords utensils of Gold and Silver, at present in the Royal and Electoral Silver-Chamber at Hanover...' was compiled, originally in German and later translated to English, from various inventories from earlier in the 18th century by the Grand Court Commissary Friderich August Bartels. Besides descriptions of the various and extensive services and other items of plate from the Hanoverian court it lists weights for each item, or series of items, in both pounds and lots. On a number of pages in the 1747 inventory the weights are clearly wrongly transcribed as pounds when it should reads marks (i.e. 1 mark equals ½ pound) as in the present case.
A second pair from the same set was acquired by the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston as part of the Masterson bequest. The remaining third pair is in the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (illustrated as three light and discussed in E. Schliemann, Der Goldschmiede Hamburgs, 1985, vol. II, p. 133 and vol. III, pl. 435).
Both museum pairs are currently displayed as three light although the 1747 inventory clearly indicates that the central branches on each must be later additions as in the case of the present lot. This conversion from two to three light appears to have been carried out by Johann Karl Matthias (1802-1863) who was Hanover court silversmith from 1838. The removal of the central detachable light allows one to see the wall sconces as they were originally conceived so that the candles flanked the central bust of Susanna.
Schliemann notes that the bust of Susanna is cast from a bronze version by François Duquesnoy, now in the collection of the Kunsthistorischesmuseum, Vienna, and illustrated in L. Planiscig, Die Bronzeplastiken, Statuetten, Reliefs, Gerate und Plaketten, Katalog mit den Abbildungen Sätlicher Sätche, Vienna, 1924, cat. no. 342, fig. 2.
It is probable that, like the magnificent Hanover cups, a series of 17th century mostly presentation cups made mainly in Hamburg and Nuremberg (the Collection of Yves St. Laurent and Pierre Bergé, Christie's, Le Grande Palais, Paris, vol. III, lots 197-210) these wall-sconces were originally made for Georg Wilhelm (1624-1705) who was Duke of Brunswick-Luneburg-Celle from 1665. In this regard it is interesting to note that the often used motif of Susanna appears in the stucco decoration ordered by Georg Wilhelm for his castle in Celle which was executed by Giovanni Battista Tornielli in 1670-72 and 1674-76. (We are grateful to Dr. Lorenz Seelig for the information on this decoration as well as on the probable provenance of the sconces from Celle).
Assuming that these sconces were indeed made for Georg Wilhelm, they would have been included amongst a considerable amount of his silver that was transferred the year after his death in 1705 from Celle to Hanover. It seems likely that it was at this point the initials GL were added for his nephew, Georg Ludwig (1660-1727), Elector of Hanover and, from 1714, King George I of Great Britain and Ireland.'
The joint monarchy of England and Hanover continued until the death of King William IV in 1837 when Queen Victoria inherited the English throne. However under Salic law which prevailed in Hanover, a woman could not inherit that throne so the title passed to one of her uncles, Ernest Augustus, Duke of Cumberland (1771-1851) who was to rule Hanover as King Ernst August I. On his death the throne passed to his son Georg Friedrich (1819-1878) who was deposed in 1866 when Prussian troops annexed the kingdom during the Seven Weeks War. When these troops ransacked Georg Friedrich's palace, Herrenhausen, the Royal plate-almost certainly including this set of sconces-was miraculously saved from melting by being hidden in the ground covered with lime and debris.
The family deprived of the throne of Hanover resumed the title Dukes of Brunswick and moved, taking the recovered royal silver with them to the palace that was to become known as the Palais Cumberland in Penzing, Vienna. In 1924 following his father's death much of the silver was sold off by Ernst August III (1887-1953) to the Austrian trade.