Roentgen to Fabergé
A European Private Collection
Situated on one of the capital's most beautiful avenues, just outside the ancient city centre, and overlooking an English garden, Monsieur de C's apartment occupies the entire piano nobile of a grand 19th-century mansion. On approach, the monumental stone façade gave little indication of the superb art collection or sophisticated décor within, which immediately took one by surprise on entering this hidden, private treasure trove. The 18th Century Rococo and the Neo-classical were Monsieur de C’s favoured 'époques' and the superb works of art he acquired reflect this. The subtle interiors he created formed the perfect backdrop for his collections of 18th-century German furniture, silver and porcelain as well as some extraordinary late 19th-century Russian works of art. Decorated with soft pastels and muted tones, the enfilade of spacious rooms, arranged around a central hall, was designed with some of the finest 18th-century palace interiors in mind and the collection he formed was wholly befitting its setting.
David Roentgen, the celebrated German cabinet-maker from Neuwied, was one of the craftsmen Monsieur de C. admired the most. Roentgen's elegant neo-classical furniture was renowned throughout Europe for its beautiful mahogany veneers, elegant and pure lines and technical innovation; attracting clientele from Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette to Catherine the Great. Monsieur de C. acquired several superb pieces created by Roentgen, some executed in his 'à la Mosaïque' or illusionistic marquetry, such as the exceptionally rare table inlaid with a portrait medallion of Landgraf Friedrich II von Hessen-Kassel (lot 90). Other neo-classical items were executed by Roentgen in beautiful acajou moucheté and embellished with gilt-bronze mounts, including an elegant table à écrire; a rare chaise, richly carved with entwined serpents; and a superb mantel clock, with movement by Peter Kinzing, formerly in the collection of the famed fashion designer, Karl Lagerfeld (lots 87, 88 & 89).
Monsieur de C. acquired various superb items of German silver and porcelain, largely dating from the 18th Century, which were used to great effect for the splendid and generous dinners he hosted. Fine Augsburg silver tureens, figures, candlesticks and boxes were displayed on tables and commodes and their audacious forms and intricate chasing were greatly admired by visitors and connoisseurs alike. The pair of figures by Philipp Küsel of circa 1690 stand out for their three-dimensional, sculptural qualities, and the pair of striking neoclassical tureens, from Catherine the Great’s famed Perm service, are particularly noteworthy (lots 25, 100 & 101). Amongst the fine porcelain, a rare assemblage of mid-18th century Meissen decorated with rich gilding from the acclaimed Seuter workshop in Augsburg and the splendid Copenhagen ‘Flora Danica’ dinner service deserve special mention (lots 10, 11, 12 & 152). The magnificent pair of Berlin gilt-bronze wall-lights designed by Johann August Nahl (Director of Ornament to the Prussian Court), circa 1745 for the Goldene Gallerie at Schloss Charlottenburg, are rare examples of the most adventurous and extreme designs to emerge from the German Rokoko. With arms like tree branches, they embody the naturalistic forms so admired by Frederick the Great, one of the most significant intellectual and avant-garde patrons of Europe, who played an important role in the development of this bold anti-classical style. Another of Monsieur de C's favoured areas of collecting was the precious, jewel-like works of art created in Russia during the final decades of the Romanov monarchy. He was especially drawn to the objects created by the famed St. Petersburg gold and silver-smith Carl Fabergé, who worked for most of the Imperial and Royal Courts of Europe in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. The collection includes various works such as the delicate ribboned photo-frame stamped by Michael Perchin, one of Fabergé's foremost artists, and a luxurious silver and silver-gilt table service (lots 110 & 111).
The collection of Monsieur de C. was formed with great connoisseurship over a period of more than three decades. He chose each item specifically for its history, quality or craftsmanship, and every object gained a specific place in his interior. His discerning eye has brought together a coherent collection of superb objects evoking the last flowering of the Ancien Régime, a golden age of regal and aristocratic patronage and artistic achievement.