DAVID ALTENSTETTER, Enameller and Goldsmith
Philipp Hainhofer (1568-1636), the Augsburg art dealer and contemporary of Altenstetter considered him to be one of the most skilled and most famous masters of enamelling of his time. Indeed he wrote on Altenstetter's death, 'how many times I warned him that his art, by which the enamel does not spring out from the metal, has been mastered by none else and he would take it to his grave' (quoted by T. Schroder, The Art of the European Goldsmith, Silver from the Schroder Collection, New York, 1983, p.118). More recently it has been said of Altenstetter that those works which can with certainty be ascribed to him place him 'among the finest renaissance enamellers' (C. Hernmarck, The Art of the European Silversmith, 1430-1830, London, 1977, p. 283).
Altenstetter was born in Colmar. He became a master of the Augsburg goldsmith's guild in 1573 and married in the same year. He was a warden from 1587-1595 and died in 1617.
Although it used to be thought that Altenstetter did not register a mark with the Augsburg goldsmith's guild, a housemark, formerly attributed to Philipp Gross who became a Master in 1619, is now thought to be his mark (H. Seling, Die Kunst der Augsburger Goldschmiede 1529-1864, Munich, 1980, vol. III., no 1339, re-attributed to Altenstetter by the same, in Supplement zu Band III, Munich, 1994, no. 864). There appear to be at least two versions of the mark, one in a circle and one, as on the present spoons and forks, more shield-shaped with a facetted top. This second mark was not published prior to 1994, although it appeared on at least one of the lost pierced and chased oval medallions of allegorical figures from the Pommersche Kunstschrank which was completed in 1617 and on the Rudolph II clock delivered in 1583. The appearance of this mark on the present service clearly confirms this re-attribution. The exceptional beauty and quality of the Kunstschrank medallions give some idea of his outstanding ability as a goldsmith in addition to his extraordinary skill as an enameller.
It was Hainhofer who not only designed the celebrated Pommersche Kunstchrank but also organized the extensive team of Augsburg goldsmiths, including Mathias Wallbaum and other artists who made it and its numerous contents. Indeed, because of his pre-eminent position in the trade and his success in gaining commissions, Hainhofer was known by the Augsburg craftsmen as the 'Father of all Artists.'
Work on the Kunstschrank, which has 'best been described as a Kunstkammer in miniature', started in 1607 (J. Hayward, Virtuoso Goldsmiths And the Triumph of Mannerism, London, 1979, p. 229). It was finally delivered by Hainhofer to his patron, Duke Philipp II of Pomerania in August, 1617. Although the case was destroyed in the Second World War the contents happily survive. In addition, detailed photographs exist of the lost ornament on the Kunstschrank case and these include six enamel plaques signed with the initials of David Altenstetter in addition to the oval medallions of allegorical figures marked by him and mentioned above (H. Seling, op.cit., 1980, vol. II. pl. 223-224 and 225-228 respectively).
Altenstetter's portrait appears alongside various artisans who worked on the Kunstschrank, painted by the Augsburg artist, Anton Mozart. The painting was completed a year or two before the actual delivery of the Kunstschrank when it was included in a space designed for it within the cabinet itself. In the painting the artisans in the back row , who are identified by numbers listed on a key on the reverse, are lead by Hainhofer who is showing a drawer and its contents from the Kunstschrank to the seated Duke and Duchess. Mozart's 'Die Übergabe des Pommerschen Kunstschranks' (The Delivery of the Pomeranian Kunstschrank) is now in the Kunstgewebermuseum, Berlin, (Inv. no. P 183a, see the exhibition catalogue, Silber und Gold, Augsburger Goldschmiedekunst für die Höfe Europas, Munich, 1994, p. 602 no. g 4, illustrated on p. 221).
ALTENSTETTER'S EXTANT SIGNED WORK
The discovery of these previously unrecorded knives approximately triples the extant signed work by this artist recorded by Seling, although Marc Rosenberg lists a number of additional pieces which may or may not survive (Der Goldschmiede Merkzeichen, Frankfurt, 1922, Vol. III, no. 476). In addition, there are quite a number of unsigned pieces, including both enamelled silver and Renaissance jewellery, that can reasonably safely be attributed to him or his workshop.
Champlevé enamelling of which basse-taille is a refinement, has a long history in Germany (e.g. the magnificent tankard possibly made in Dresden and the Brieg cup probably from Breslau and both dating almost certainly to the 1530s, sold respectively at Christie's London, 13 June 2001, lot 230 and Christie's New York, 14 April 2005, lot 131). It is not surprising then that, in spite of Hainhofer's remarks following Altenstetter's death quoted above, the use of basse-taille enamelling seems to have been widespread and mastered by a number of Altenstetter's contemporaries such as Hans Karl working in the court workshop in Salzburg. In 1602 the latter signed and dated the wonderful enamelled gold flask he made for the Archbishop of Salzburg, now in the Museo degli Argenti (inv. no. A.s.E. 1911 no 1).
Altenstetter's most important surviving signed work are three pieces made for the Emperor Rudolph II of Prague which are now in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna. He enamelled a magnificent clock, with movement by Hans Schlottheim, which was paid for in 1583 (inv. no. 602). Rosenberg and most other specialists have attributed the house mark on the base of the clock case to Cornelius Gross but he died in 1575 and the town mark appears to be that in use from 1580 to 1590. (e.g. Exhibition catalogue, 'Rudolph II and Prague', London 1997 p. 26, no.I.24). A comparison of the maker's mark shows that Altenstetter was not only responsible for the enamel work but also the silver body of the clock. It should be noted that the enamel decoration of the corner mounts of the Rudolph II clock are very close to those on the present spoons and forks. In addition he decorated and signed the plaques on a superbly decorated rifle by Daniel Sadeler with powder flask dating from around 1608 (inv. no. 1121).
Apart from the six no longer surviving Kunstschrank enamelled panels, there is a cup and cover, signed D.A.-F. and dated 1610 belonging to Njutanger parish, Hälsignland, Sweden (T. Schroder, The Art of the European Goldsmith, Silver from the Schroder Collection, N.Y., 1983, p. 118). In addition, there is a plaque dated 1601, presumably made for the Bavarian court, which is now in the Bayerisches Nationalmuseum, Munich. The enamelled decoration on this plaque has a remarkable number of affinities with that on the present lot (inv. no. R 2528, illustrated in Y. Hackenbroch, Renaissance Jewellery, London, 1979, pl. XX and fig. 475). A circular enamelled plaque dated 1607 is recorded in a private collection (the exhibition catalogue, Silber und Gold, Augsburger Goldschmiedekunst für die Höfe Europas, Munich, 1994, p.279 footnote 6).
ALTENSTETTER'S DESIGN SOURCES
The designs for Altenstetter's enamels are closely related to the pattern books of two artists working in Augsburg in the 1590s, the Huguenot, Daniel Mignot and Corvinianus Saur. The former's designs were published in that city as a series of engravings for jewellers between 1593 and 1596. Since the activities of engravers were unrestricted there is no record of him acquiring Augsburg citizenship or guild membership (Y. Hackenbroch, op.cit., pp. 178-180, figs. 483 A-D and 488 A-C). Corvinianus Saur seems to have been a designer, publishing a series of engravings as a young man in Augsburg between 1591 and 1597, and also a working jeweller. He eventually moved to Copenhagen to work for the court of King Christian IV (Y. Hackenbroch, op. cit., pp. 211-212, figs. 586, 595).
The work of these two designers is difficult to distinguish but, of the two, Corvinianus Saur's designs seem closer to the decoration on the salts in particular. Many of Mignot's designs are for pendants and both artists include geometric pattern that one would normally expect to see as black enamel and gold border decoration on jewels. However, it is possible such designs were also used as the basis of some on the designs on the more colourful spoon and fork handles and the similar narrow side panels of the knife handles (see a book of designs by Saur now in the Victoria and Albert Museum Library and A. Hämmerle, 'Daniel Mignot', Das Schwaebische Museum, 1930, pp. 33-75).
THE MAKER OF THE SALT-CELLARS
Seling illustrates a maker's mark that is identical to those on the salt-cellars and suggests that it may be HZ in monogram which, if so, could well be that of Hieronymus Zainer who became a master of the Augsburg goldsmith's guild prior to 1587 (H. Seling, op. cit. vol. III, nos. 1022 and 1062). This monogram maker's mark is found on a tankard of circa 1590 at Schloss Köpenick, Berlin which incorporates enamelled oval panels very much in the manner of David Altenstetter and indeed very comparable with the decoration on the sides of the salts (H. Seling, op. cit., vol. 11, fig. 141).
The construction of the salt-cellars and the cutlery is both interesting and unusual. The base of each salt-cellar is held in place by a nut attached to a central screw from underneath the well for the salt. This allows the salt-cellars to be assembled without heating the enamelled side panels which are detachable. The cutlery is also assembled to avoid heating the enamel. A central rod, held in place by a nut attached to a screw though the finial, is attached to the blade/prong/bowl. The examples examined are each marked inside with Roman numerals to ensure correct assembly.
It has also been noted that the silver used for enamelling is, for technical reasons, of very high standard, indeed considerably higher than the normal Augsburg "minimum" of 81.25 (13 lötig). The existence of enamel on silver was per se proof of high quality which accounts for the marks appearing solely on the detachable un-enamelled sections. Altenstetter signed the enamel parts on the knife which did not need to be marked but, where his mark appeared on the spoons and forks, he did not need to advertise his authorship further.
COMPARABLE KNIVES, FORKS AND SPOONS
This set of knives, spoons and sweetmeat-forks appears to be the earliest recorded complete set of table-silver by several decades. Early royal inventories, such as that of Queen Elizabeth I of England, do record a few sets. One of 12 spoons and 12 forks are listed with mother-of-pearl handles in her 1574 inventory but it has been pointed out that the existence of such whole sets is 'unusual as these objects are usually only mentioned in small numbers. It is probable that she had received them as a gift from abroad.' (C. Oman, English Domestic Silver, London, 1934 , p. 72). Indeed, Continental cutlery sets of knives and forks such as an early 17th century garnet-set filigree example survive but this is without matching spoons. (Exhibition catalogue, 'Rudolph II and Prague', London, 1997, p. 736, V457).
Although no other complete service of twelve knives, spoons and forks of this period are extant, individual travelling sets from the early 17th century that are comparable do exist. For example, an almost contemporaneous set by Nicolaus Kolb, Augsburg, 1613-15, of a silver gilt-knife, two-pronged sweetmeat-fork and spoon has, not unexpectedly, striking similarities, most notably the cherubs' masks finials (Exhibition catalogue, 'From Gothic to Art Deco Cutlery, the J. Hollander collection', Ghent, 2003, p. 195, cat. no. 342).
An enamelled parcel-gilt knife, with two-pronged fork, spoon and toothpick en suite by Heinrich Sailer, Augsburg, 1600-05 has a similarly shaped but much less elaborate terminal (Victoria and Albert Museum inv. no. M 618c-1910, H. Seling, op. cit., vol. II, fig. 514). A knife, two-pronged fork and spoon by Johan Baptist I Weinhold, Augsburg, circa 1630 has more comparable enamel decoration to that on the present example (H. Seling, op. cit,. vol. II, figs. 516 and 517 and K. Marquardt, Eight Centuries of European Knives, Forks and Spoons, Stuttgart, 1997, p.158, fig. 506). In both the present set and the latter one, the enamel decoration of the broader knife handle is much more elaborate than that on the accompanying spoon and fork.
A ROYAL BANQUETING SERVICE
It is astonishing how little is known about the development of cutlery and its uses right up until the late 17th century. Only four years earlier than the date of the present service, the English traveller, Thomas Coryat (1577-1617) mentions how widespread the use of knives with forks was throughout Italy but not elsewhere in Europe. He describes how meat was cut up on a dish by the various diners each with a knife in one hand and transferred to the mouth with a fork in the other to avoid handling. "Hereupon" he wrote "I myself thought good to imitate the Italian fashion by this forked cutting of meate, not only when I was in Italy, but also in Germany and oftentimes in England". (T. Coryat, Coryat's Crudities, 1611, p. 91).
Coryat's remarks perfectly place this service in its context, both in geographical and socio-historical terms. It underlines just how extraordinarily early the service is, particularly for Northern Europe but also how the "Italian fashion"” spread from its country of origin. It spread not only via returning travellers but also, of course, by importers such as Hainhofer who, incidentally, was partly educated in Padua. He founded his first cloth business in Augsburg in 1601. His trade was mainly in Italian silks and the luxury goods that brought him into contact with several German noble families. His brother, Christoph was in Florence in 1611, presumably on his behalf, in discussion with the Grand-Duchess of Tuscany about furniture she wished to commission in Augsburg (B. Volk-Knüttel, op. cit., p. 88 and footnote 64).
North of the Alps it seems likely that, at this date, the knife would normally still be used to transfer meat on its point to the mouth and, indeed, as the occasional toothpick. Spoons presumably would have been used for broth and much rarer forks to spear sweetmeats. Slightly later in the century a rare Swiss group portrait dated 1643 shows the Bodmer family of Zurich seated around a dining table. By this date the forks would have been quite possibly intended for use more in the Italian fashion but it is far from certain. The parents at the head of the table sit with knife, fork and spoon on a napkin beside their trenchers in front of them. On the father's side sit his four elder sons each with knife and fork while the two youngest sons and daughters opposite have only a knife each. Eight spoons sit in the centre of the table (see A. Gruber, Silverware, New York, 1982, pp. 24-26, fig. 11).
In any event, it is tempting to suggest that, given its remarkable quality, the Altenstetter service was made for one of the greatest of European families and of these, the Ducal house of Bavaria seems the most likely. It would surely have been used on much grander occasions than the simple family meal shown in the Bodmer painting. The head of a royal or leading noble household would have purchased such a service for intimate private banquets as opposed to formal dining often held, at that date, in public.
Such a relaxed party, in which sweetmeat-forks and salt-cellars incidentally both appear, is illustrated in the 'Banquet of the Hapsburg Monarchs' of 1596 (P. Glanville, Silver in Tudor and Early Stuart England, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 1990, fig. 11). The painting perfectly illustrates the private banquet, which was often held in a separate room from the dining room or, indeed, even in a specifically designed banqueting house. Such a service was not just functional but also intended to convey, even among the leading courtiers, princely magnificence and, surely, as in this case, artistic patronage of the latest in design and decoration. Its survival in such exceptional condition may also be partly due to the fact that it was the ruler's personal property rather than the state dining plate which suffered much rougher use being frequently melted and updated with changes of fashion. Paradoxically, unlike the silver intended for public display and eating, such a banqueting service, kept locked away for the ruler's personal use, would hardly need to be engraved with its owner's armorials.
We would especially like to thank Professor Dr. Ernst-Ludwig Richter of Stuttgart for testing both the metal and enamel of samples from this service as well as his comments on the purity of the enamelled silver mentioned above. We would also like to thank him for his considerable help in cataloguing these pieces and for his researches in various von Münch family papers. A copy of his analysis is available to the purchaser of this lot. In conclusion he states:
'The analysis of the enamels gives no indication of the use of modern colours. In particular the absence of chromium and boron is more typical of early enamels.
The contents of gold, lead and bismuth of the bowls and rat-tails of the spoons, the prongs of the forks and the bottom of the salts are entirely consistent with a 17th century origin.
The silver used for enamelling is characterised by a high standard but smaller impurity levels.
Summarising the results of the enamel and metal analyses clearly support the assumption of a 17th century origin for the whole ensemble.'
In addition to Professor Dr. Richter, Christie's would also like to thank the following: Dr. Annette Schommers of the Bayerisches Nationalmuseum, Munich for her comments on the Gross family's and Altenstetter's marks; Dr. Lorenz Seelig of the same museum for drawing our attention to the Hainhofer-Duke Maximilian I correspondence ; Philippa Glanville, Senior Research Fellow at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London for her suggestion that the service was originally intended for royal banqueting; Dr. Rudfolf Distelberger of the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna for allowing us access to the Rudolph II clock; and David Sherlock for drawing our attention to Coryat's Crudities cited above.
Captions for photographs
David Altenstetter (d.1617)
Detail from Anton Mozart's, 'Die Übergabe des Pommerschen Kunstschrankes' (The Delivery of the Pomeranian Kunstschrank), circa 1615-1616
Courtesy of bpk/Kunstgewerbemuseum, SMB/Funke
Christian I von Münch (1690-1757)
Christian II von Münch (1752-1821)
Detail of marks on spoons and forks
Detail of marks on the lost plaque of Astronomy from the Pomeranian Kunstschrank delivered in August 1617 and formerly attributed to Phillip Gross
Courtesy of bpk/Kunstgewerbemuseum, SMB
Detail of marks on the clock made for Emperor Rudolph II delivered in 1583 formerly attributed to Cornelius Gross
Courtesy of the Kunsthistorischesmuseum, Vienna.
The lost plaque of Eloquence from the Pomeranian Kunstschrank delivered in August 1617
Courtesy of bpk/Kunstgewerbemuseum/SMB
One of the lost enamelled plaques from the Pomeranian Kunstschrank delivered in August 1617
Courtesy of the bpk/Kunstgewerbemuseum/SMB
Detail from Anton Mozart, 'Die Übergabe des Pommerschen Kunstschrankes' (The Delivery of the Pomeranian Kunstschrank), circa 1615-1616, of the son of Philipp Hainhofer with dog.
Courtesy of bpk/Kunstgewerbemuseum, SWB/Funke
Anton Mozart, 'Die Übergabe des Pommerschen Kunstschrankes' (The Delivery of the Pomeranian Kunstschrank), circa 1615-1616
Courtesy of bpk/Kunstgewerbemuseum, SWB/Funke
Enamelled silver plaque signed by David Altenstetter and dated 1601
Courtesy of the Bayeriches Nationalmuseum, Munich
Enamelled silver table clock made for Emperor Rudolph II, by David Altenstetter, and the movement by Hans Schlottheim, delivered in 1583
Courtesy of the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna
Corvinianus Saur (working c. 1591-1635) designs for goldsmiths' ornament
Courtesy of the Victoria & Albert Museum, London
Daniel Mignot (working c. 1590-1616) designs for goldsmiths' ornament Courtesy of the Bildarchiv Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Berlin
Construction of salt-cellars
Detail of marks on salt-cellars
Side view of knife handle between spoon and fork
School of Alonso Sanchez Coelho, 'Banquet of the Hapsburg Monarchs', 1596
Courtesy of the National Museum, Warsaw (on long term loan to the National Museum, Poznan)