8/6/12 - Exhibition - Ecouen, Musée national de la Renaissance - In late 2009, the Musée Lorrain in Nancy was fortunate enough to add an exceptional ensemble of Renaissance silver discovered by accident in Pouilly-sur-Meuse in 2006 to its collections, just a few days before it was to be dispersed at Sotheby’s Paris (see news item of 5/11/09).
The museum organized an exhibition around this ensemble between December and March, and it has now opened at the Musée de la Renaissance in Ecouen, on the outskirts of Paris.
Such a discovery is extremely rare. The book published for the occasion (it is not exactly a catalogue) tells us that there are only two per century, on average, in France. In fact, the last one took place over fifty years ago, in 1954, when thirty-one pieces of a silver dinner service were found during restoration work inside the church of the former hôtel-Dieu in Coëffort, near Le Mans. Several of those objects, acquired by the Musée Tessé in Le Mans  are featured in the exhibition which assembles many examples of silver from the late Middle Ages to the early 17th century.
2. Reims, Middle of the XVIth Century
Salver with a Decor Made of "Mauresques"
and a Small Console Supporting the Cup
The Treasure of Pouilly-sur-Meuse
Chiseled, Engraved and Partially Gilded Silver - H. 13 cm
Nancy, Musée Lorrain
Photo : G. André et L. Gury
3. Pierre II Rousseau
Paris, c. 1635-1640
Partially Gilded Silver - H. 8.6 cm
Photo : All Rights Reserved
The treasure of Pouilly-sur-Meuse was carefully hidden by its owners, no doubt between 1587 and 1595. The reasons for this remain mysterious but are probably due to the troubled period during the French Wars of Religion.
Thanks to the hallmarks, the origin and dates of the pieces can be identified : they were undoubtedly brought together carefully, much like a collection, over three generations, between the very early 16th century and the 1560’s. The most recent works are indeed two nested goblets bearing the hallmark of Dietrich Brey, a silversmith active in Strasbourg between 1560 and 1567.
There are several provenances for these objects : besides Strasbourg, specialists have identified pieces from Paris (an ewer, three spoons and two goblets) which are older, but also items produced in Châlons-en-Champagne and Reims (ill. 2). The production site of a salt shaker and four spoons has not been determined.
French silver of this period is extremely rare and quite often unusually beautiful, with some of the forms evoking even Art Déco (ill. 3). The ensemble presented in Ecouen, accompanied by tapestries showing dining scenes, is therefore a unique chance to admire such a large number of pieces all at once.
The exhibition runs from 3 April to 2 July 2012.
Curators : Michèle Bimbenet-Privat with the help of Aurélia Danon and Marie Thouvenon.
Collective work, Trésors enfouis de la Renaissance. Autour de Pouilly-sur-Meuse, 2012, Editions de la RMAN, 128 p., 28€. ISBN : 978-2-7118-5950-4.
Visitor information : Château d’Ecouen, Musée national de la Renaissance, 95440 Ecouen. Tel : +33(0)1 34 38 38 50. Open every day except Tuesday from 9.30 am to 12.45 and from 2 pm to 5.15 pm. Admission : 6.5€ (reduced : 4€).