Enfilade

Louvre Aims to Purchase the Teschen Table

Posted in museums by Editor on December 16, 2014

Musée du Louvre

Johann Christian Neuber, Teschen Table, 1779, H. 81.5 cm; W. of tabletop: 70.5 cm, wooden core clad with gilt bronze, hardstones, Saxony porcelain (Photo by Philippe Fuzeau for the Musée du Louvre)

◊  ◊  ◊  ◊  ◊

Included in the exhibition Gold, Jasper, and Carnelian: Johann Christian Neuber at the Saxon Court, the Teschen Table was on view in 2012 at the Grünes Gewölbe (Dresden), the Frick Collection (New York), and the Galerie Kugel (Paris). The Louvre’s campaign to raise acquisition funds for the table runs until the end of January 2015.

Press release (17 October 2014) from the Louvre:

New Donation Campaign for the Acquisition of a ‘Work of Major Heritage Value’

In the wake of the Tous mécènes! (Become a patron!) donation campaigns launched by the museum in 2010 for a painting by Cranach, in 2011 for the restoration of two treasures from Cairo, in 2012 for the acquisition of two magnificent ivory statuettes thought lost, and in 2013 for the restoration of the Winged Victory of Samothrace, the Louvre is once again appealing to the generosity of the general public to raise one million euros to add to its national collection with the purchase of the famous Teschen Table, a masterpiece of 18th-century decorative arts and monument commemorating a key moment in European history.

Candlestick-holders-e1412965918790The Teschen Table, also known as the Breteuil Table or the Table of Peace, is the only work of its kind, made unique by its illustrious past and virtuoso craftsmanship. Both a table and a piece of jewelry, it was listed as a ‘National Treasure’ then as a ‘Work of Major Heritage Value’ by the French Consultative Commission for National Treasures. The table’s wooden structure, clad with gilt bronze, is inset with 128 numbered samples of semiprecious stones representing Saxony’s geological riches and Saxony porcelain medallions, allegorical celebrations of peace, on the table’s oval top. A booklet from 1780, kept in a drawer beneath the tabletop, identifies each numbered stone. By the precious nature of the materials used, likening it to the work of a jeweler, and the ‘stone cabinet’ layout of the tabletop, the table is a surprising and spectacular display of the rise and development of the natural sciences during the Enlightenment. It masterfully illustrates the secular tradition of decorative furniture made to the glory of European sovereigns.

The total budget for this exceptional acquisition is 12.5 million euros. Every donation, regardless of the amount, will be crucial to the success of the campaign to give the Teschen Table its rightful place in the Department of Decorative Arts. The Louvre is thus appealing to the generosity of the general public once again to raise one million euros before January 31, 2015. At the same time, the museum continues to seek funding from corporations and major donors, and will draw significantly on its own acquisition funds.

A Monument Commemorating European History

Legs-detail-e1412968997851The War of Bavarian Succession broke out in 1778, when Maximilian Joseph, Elector of Bavaria, died without a legitimate heir on December 30, 1777. The clash between contenders to the Bavarian throne, which also threatened the interests of the Prince-Elector of Saxony, centered round the rivalry between the Holy Roman Emperor Joseph II and King Frederick II of Prussia. For six months this conflict, gravely threatening the balance of European power, prompted impressive troop movements and intense diplomatic negotiations. The emperor’s brother-in-law Louis XVI played a dominant role in the ‘diplomatic war’ led by the French foreign minister, the Comte de Vergennes. The king wisely refused to involve France in an armed conflict. Louis-Auguste Le Tonnelier, Baron de Breteuil, his ambassador in Vienna, was charged with vigorously affirming France’s neutrality and offering to mediate.

During the peace negotiations in Teschen, a city now divided into two towns in the Czech Republic and Poland, Breteuil conducted himself courteously, discreetly, and skillfully. The Teschen Peace Treaty was signed on May 13, 1779, under the successful joint mediation of France and Russia. As a mark of gratitude for his ministrations, and particularly for safeguarding the interests of Saxony, Baron de Breteuil received as a gift from Frederick Augustus III, Elector of Saxony, this table decorated with semiprecious stones. The Teschen Table or Table of Peace, a genuine monument commemorating a key event in European history, has remained with his descendants until today. To many historians, the Teschen Table immortalizes the Treaty of Teschen, considered by diplomats to be the first modern treaty in which two nations, France and Russia, served as guarantors of peace between Austria and Prussia and, more globally, collective security in Europe.

A Masterpiece by Johann Christian Neuber, Goldsmith and Mineralogist

Johann Christian Neuber (1736–1808), a hardstone merchant and principal jeweler to the court of Saxony, finished his career as curator of the royal collections amassed in the Grünes Gewölbe (Green Vault) in Dresden by the electors of Saxony since the Renaissance. Herein undoubtedly lies the originality of an artist who was also a man of science and inventor of the ‘Zellenmosaic’ technique, or mosaic composed of hardstones and semiprecious stones extracted from Saxony’s mineral deposits. Neuber was renowned for his snuffboxes, genuine miniature mineral display cabinets captioned with numbers and accompanied with an explanatory booklet, keenly collected by scientists and scholars. The Louvre has twelve of these exceptional Steinkabinett Tabatieren on display in the new Department of Decorative Arts galleries devoted to the 18th century (room 56).

During the Enlightenment, while Paris was the undisputed capital of taste and fashion in Europe, Neuber distinguished himself by his personal, innovative style. With the Teschen Table, Neuber created one of the first neoclassical masterpieces in Germany: shaped feet, garland decoration, palmette friezes, fluted legs reinterpreted to exalt the goût grec (Greek taste). The grisaille medallions painted on Saxony porcelain by Johann Eleazar Zeissig, known as Schenau, are still in keeping with the rococo tradition, but the iconography is clearly inspired by the Antiquity and neoclassical in nature, particularly the central medallion depicting the closing gates of the temple of war and the flame reignited over the altar of Peace.

A New Masterpiece for the Recently Inaugurated 18th-Century Decorative Arts Galleries

Solemnly presented on January 1, 1780 to the Court of Dresden, and celebrated as far as Versailles upon its arrival in France in August, the Teschen Table has remained in the Breteuil family since the 18th century, and has rarely been exhibited outside the Château de Breteuil, in the Chevreuse Valley, 40 km west of Paris. In 2012, it was the focus of remarkable exhibitions at the Grünes Gewölbe (Dresden), the Frick Collection (New York), and the Galerie Kugel (Paris).

The addition of this exceptional table to the Louvre’s new 18th-century decorative arts galleries inaugurated in June 2014 would be a highlight of the museum. Showcased within the revamped museum space, the artwork would be given a worthy setting at the center of the neoclassical masterpieces. Its acquisition is a unique opportunity to welcome a masterpiece whose symbolic, historical, and artistic dimensions naturally resonate with the Louvre’s vocation as a national museum.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: