The collection formed by Eugen Gutmann (1840-1925) was of exceptional quality and depth. There could be no better example of late 19th Century collecting taste. Apart from Old Masters, it included Renaissance jewellery, gold-mounted hardstone objects, bronzes, maiolica, watches, miniatures and 18th century gold boxes-all areas pursued by the Rothschild families of Europe, Julius Wernher in England and J. Pierpont Morgan in America among others.

However, it was in the field of European and particularly German Renaissance silver that the Gutmann collection truly excelled.

In 1912, the distinguished art historian, Otto von Falke published The Art Collection Eugen Gutmann. In the introduction to this catalogue he wrote of the Renaissance jewellery and European silver, that, "not only can it boast of the names and works of such renowned masters as Jamnitzer, Petzolt, Eisenhoit, Attemstetter (sic), Lencker, Ritter, Straub, Drentwett and others, but also of the breadth of scope and multiplicity of forms, which makes it worthy to rank beside the treasure-chambers of princes".

The seventy lots of silver in Otto von Falke's catalogue appear to be of a consistent and extraordinarily high standard. Among the highlights are the silver-gilt mounted ivory cup on elephant feet, with cover formed as a model of a castle, by Abraham Jamnitzer, Nuremberg, 1591 and a drinking cup formed as the model of a cat holding in its paw a fish, by Hans Uten, Nuremberg, 1626 (the former is illustrated by Otto von Falke op. cit, pl. 28 and M. Bachtler, Goldschmiedekunst, Bielefeld, 1986, pg. 31, the latter is illustrated by Falke, pl. 31.)

The bulk of the silver collection stolen during the Second World War was returned to the family in the 1950s and subsequently sold in New York.

The three pieces of silver-gilt from the Gutmann collection more recently returned to the family, after being on loan to the Rijksmuseum for nearly fifty years, are of equal quality and superb condition. Each piece is by a highly significant maker and of the greatest artistic importance.

Otto von Falke wrote of the ewer by Johannes Lencker and the cup by the Ulm maker, Hans Ludwig Kienle (now written as Kienlin), that they demonstrate the style of the High Renaissance at its highest perfection.

More recently, John Hayward in his classic work, Virtuoso Goldsmiths and the Triumph of Mannerism, 1540-1620, says of the lithe figure of the nymph on the back of the triton which forms the body of Lencker's ewer, that it "is the epitome of Mannerist sophistication." It is a sublime work of both the sculptor's and the goldsmith's art and one of the greatest pieces to be made in Augsburg at the start of the second quarter of the 17th century, a period when the city was supplanting Nuremberg in producing the finest silver in Germany, if not all of Europe.

The wonderful double cup by Hans Petzolt, one of the greatest Nuremberg makers working at the end of the 16th century, is a perfect example of the short lived return to the Gothic style of a hundred years earlier. This use of the Gothic style with added Renaissance ornament was an unusual artistic development and one that Petzolt seems largely to have introduced. Made for Jacob Starck of Nuremberg and his wife, Elisabeth Usler of Goslar in 1596, the double cup eventually became part of the distinguished collection of Baron Karl von Rothschild of Frankfurt before being acquired by Eugen Gutmann.

The third piece, the partly gilded Kienlin cup, formed as a nude male on a galloping horse, is proudly signed by the maker and dated 1630. It is also of great beauty and, indeed, Falke noted that "it had a touch of Leonardo's genius about it." It is most certainly proof of just how important an artistic centre Ulm was at this period. Few pieces of comparable importance made in this city survive.

The silver collection formed by Eugen Gutmann, when viewed in its entirety, is an astonishing achievement clearly formed by a collector with a quite extraordinary eye for the best. The three pieces in this sale were inherited by his son, Fritz whose brave attempts to prevent the confiscation of the rest of the family collection is told by Anne Webber in her introduction to this catalogue. These three breathtaking pieces of silver survive as a testimonial to the genius and passion of father and son as collectors.

This article appeared in Christie's catalogue for the sale of The Gutmann Collection, May-June 2003.

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