The Louvre Acquires Two Silver Tureens by Robert-Joseph Auguste

Robert-Joseph Auguste (1723-1805)
Pair of Tureens, Service of George III, 1778-1780
Silver - L. 50 cm
Paris, Musée du Louvre
Photo : Sotheby’s

23/12/11 - Acquisition - Paris, Musée du Louvre - The Louvre recently acquired a pair of lidded tureens, with their liners and trays through Sotheby’s [1]. Executed in silver by Robert Joseph Auguste in 1778-1780, they were part of a service meant for Georges III, Elector of Hanover and King of England. Auguste had the lids made by Claude Aubry et Langlois and the salt shakers by Antoine Boullier, while Peter Bunsen would complete the ensemble afterwards. Held on deposit at the château of Leineschloss, this service was taken to Austria when diplomatic relations with Prussia worsened, then was finally sold in the 1920’s ; part of it was acquired by the Rothschild family and the rest by Louis Cartier. The two tureens were in the Cartier lot auctioned off in 1979 and joined the collection of Alexandre Reza, a gemmologist and jeweler, where they remained until now. The works owned by the Rothschilds are now at Waddesdon Manor and at the Louvre, which already owns thirty-five pieces from the Georges III service [2], notably plates, trays, oil cruets, mustard pots, candlesticks, ragout tureens, coolers...

The service represents a harmonious and coherent ensemble ; the three ragout tureens for example are very similar to the two lidded tureens : all five have handles in the shape of two putti embracing, softening the lines of the neo-Classical design. They all have a tray decorated with fluting and a laurel torus on the rim ; the central area circling the foot of the tureen is marked by beads ; all of these motifs are also found on the mustard ports and oil cruets.
The model for these two pieces was not new, the silversmith had designed it for some tureens created in 1775 and offered to the King of Sweden ; their decor, however, shows a few differences compared to the ones here. It was also used to produce the services for Catherine II of Russia (Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg) and for the Count of Creutz (Swedish Royal Collections).
Generally speaking, the putti motif for the handles recurs often in Auguste’s work, as seen for instance in a drawing at the Musée des Arts décoratifs for a sauce dish still showing traces of the taste for rocaille. The lid with boss beading crowned with leaves from which a pine cone is seen emerging can also be found in another ensemble, known as the Moscow service (1782-1783). Finally, the flat tray with a beaded center is also frequently present in his production.

Robert Joseph Auguste became a master in 1757 and was named silversmith to the king in 1777 ; he also worked for the other European courts in Stockholm, Saint Petersburg and Lisbon. He took up lodgings at the Louvre in 1784 and passed his business on to his son Henry the next year. These are his best known silversmith pieces [3] ; they reveal a style which tended to abandon rocaille and embraced neo-Classicism. A table will be set at the Louvre to display the beauty of Georges III’s service in the rooms housing 18th century furniture which are scheduled to open in 2013.

Version française

Bénédicte Bonnet Saint-Georges, vendredi 23 décembre 2011


[1] This direct purchase was made possible with the help of Sotheby’s thanks to the new law of 20 July 2011. The Louvre had already benefited from it once before, with Christie’s, for objects from the collection of Marquet de Vasselot (see news item of 16/9/11, in French).

[2] Twenty-three of which joined the museum in 1975 through acceptance in lieu.

[3] The Metropolitan Museum owns terracotta pieces also attributed to him.

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