Exhibition | Gold, Jasper, and Carnelian: Johann Christian Neuber

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on April 30, 2012

From The Frick:

Gold, Jasper, and Carnelian: Johann Christian Neuber at the Saxon Court
Grünes Gewölbe, Dresden, 3 March — 2 May 2012
The Frick Collection, New York, 30 May — 19 August 2012
Galerie J. Kugel, Paris, 12 September — 10 November 2012

Coordinated by Dirk Syndram, Jutta Kappel, Ian Wardropper, and Charlotte Vignon

Johann Christian Neuber, Breteuil Table, Dresden, 1779–80, wood, gilded bronze, semiprecious stones, faux-pearls, and Meissen porcelain plaques, H: 32 inches, collection of the Marquis de Breteuil, Chäteau de Breteuil (Choisel/Chevreuse); photo: © Georges Fessy

Johann Christian Neuber was one of Dresden’s most famous goldsmiths. Sometime before 1775 he was named court jeweler to Friedrich Augustus III, elector of Saxony, and in 1785 he was appointed Curator of the Grünes Gewölbe (Green Vault), the magnificent royal collection of Augustus the Strong, the founder of the Meissen Porcelain Manufactory. For more than thirty years, Neuber created small gold boxes, chatelaines, and watchcases decorated with local semiprecious stones such as agate, jasper, and carnelian. He fashioned enchanting landscapes, complex floral designs, and geometric patterns with tiny cut stones, often incorporating Meissen porcelain plaques, cameos, and miniatures. These one-of-a-kind objects, which reflect the Saxon court’s interest in both luxury items and the natural sciences, remain prized treasures today, but have never before been shown together in a monographic exhibition.

In 2012, the public will have their first comprehensive introduction to this master craftsman’s oeuvre through a traveling exhibition that is accompanied by a lavishly illustrated publication (Paul Holberton publishing, London, and Editions d’Art Monelle Hayot, under the direction of Alexis Kugel). The exhibition began in Dresden at the Grünes Gewölbe on March 3, remaining there through May 2, 2012, when it travels to the United Sates for an exclusive engagement at The Frick Collection (May 30 through August 19, 2012). It concludes at Galerie J. Kugel in Paris in the fall (September 12 through November 10, 2012).

Gold, Jasper, and Carnelian: Johann Christian Neuber at the Saxon Court includes some thirty-five boxes and other decorative objects from the Grünes Gewölbe and the Porcelain Collection of the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and private collections in Europe and the United States. The exhibition also features Neuber’s masterpiece, the Breteuil Table. This small table is regarded as one of the most extraordinary pieces of eighteenth-century furniture ever made, distinguished not only by the materials used in its construction and for the remarkable skill of its creator, but also for its prestigious history. It was presented in 1781 by Friedrich Augustus III to Baron de Breteuil, a French diplomat, as recognition for the role Breteuil played in the negotiation of the Treaty of Teschen, which officially ended the war of Bavarian Succession fought between the Habsburg monarchy and a Saxon-Prussian alliance to prevent the Habsburg acquisition of the Duchy of Bavaria. The table features a mosaic top of 128 semiprecious stones and Meissen porcelain plaques. Still owned by the family who received it nearly 250 years ago, this stunning object has almost never been exhibited outside the Château de Breteuil (some twenty-five miles west of Paris) and has never before crossed the Atlantic. The Frick exhibition also reunites for the first time two bases designed and crafted by Neuber for the display of Meissen porcelain groups. One is now in the collection of the Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, while the other is from a private collection in Paris. These bases were part of a much larger diplomatic gift from Friedrich Augustus III to Nicolai Wasilijewitsch Repnin, the Russian emissary who helped to negotiate the Treaty of Teschen. The gift originally included a Meissen porcelain service and an enormous centerpiece composed of seven stands of varying heights, each supporting an allegorical group made of Meissen porcelain. Of this extravagant gift, only these two bases have been definitively identified.

The exhibition is co-organized by the Grünes Gewölbe, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, The Frick Collection, and Galerie J. Kugel, Paris. The exhibition in Dresden will be shown in a slightly different form as Johann Christian “Neuber à Dresde”: Schatzkunst des Klassizismus für den Adel Europas. It is coordinated by Dirk Syndram, Director of the Grünes Gewölbe and the Armoury, and Jutta Kappel, Senior Curator of the Grünes Gewölbe. The presentation of the exhibition at The Frick Collection is coordinated by Director Ian Wardropper and Charlotte Vignon, Associate Curator of Decorative Arts.

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From Paul Holberton Publishing:

Alexis Kugel, ed., Gold, Jasper and Carnelian: Johann Christian Neuber at the Saxon Court (London: Paul Holberton, 2012), 400 pages, ISBN: 9781907372360, £100.

Johann Christian Neuber (1736–1808) was a goldsmith and mineralogist at the Saxon Court. In 1769 he became director of the Grünes Gewölbe, the magnificent State Treasury, and was appointed court jeweler in 1775. He specialized in creating small gold boxes, chatelaines and watchcases decorated with semiprecious stones, such as agate, jasper and carnelian. Neuber fashioned enchanting landscapes, complex floral designs and geometric patterns out of tiny cut stones, often incorporating Meissen porcelain plaques, cameos and miniatures. These one-of-a-kind objects are treasured in public and private collections all over the world today, but have never been brought together.

This book is the first comprehensive introduction to this master craftsman’s oeuvre, presenting boxes and other decorative objects from the Grünes Gewölbe, the Metropolitan Museum of Art as well as public and private collections in Germany, France and New York. One of its highlights is the ‘Breteuil Table’, still owned by the family for which it was made as a diplomatic gift nearly 250 years ago.

Beautiful photographs of all Neuber’s creations adorn this extraordinary book – well over 500 in number. The context and history of the growing interest in mineralogy and its celebration in these works of art are fully investigated. Its distinguished authors include Dr Jutta Kappel, Head of Conservation at Grünes Gewölbe, Dresden;  art historians and specialists Sophie Mouquin and Philippe Poindront;  marquis de Breteuil, Henri-François Le Tonnelier; and the editor of the book, Alexis Kugel, of the famous Parisian gallery.

There is also a French edition of this book: Le luxe, le goût, la science: Neuber, orfèvre minéarologiste à la cour de Saxe (ISBN 9782903824808).

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