MUNICH – Sometimes stories of war and intrigue end with a silver lining – even if it means buying said silver back at auction.
In 1945 Price Ernst Heinrich of Saxony and his two sons, Prince Dedo and Prince Gero, feared the worst and buried the family silver in the woods next to their home, Schloss Moritzburg near Dresden. This act was a common bet of fleeing wealthy families during World War II, who hoped to protect their treasure from both National Socialists and the approaching Russian Army.
But the Duke of Saxony, son of the last King of Saxony, had a lot more to hide than just silver. Generations’ worth of costly and irreplaceable art treasures from the royal lineage of the Wettiner, part of which had been exhibited at Dresden’s famous Grünes Gewölbe, was at stake.
With the help of French prisoners of war, the treasure was packed into 43 crates. The two princes buried most of it themselves. Although they bade their father for extreme secrecy, he told one other person, his forester, the location. When the Russians, they quickly pressured the location from the forester. Soon the bulk of the treasure, including the Baptismal Font of the Wettiners, was on its way to Russia.
What no one else knew, was that three more crates had been buried nearby. They remained undiscovered until two treasure hunters found them using a metal detector in 1996. In 1998 a second stash was found.
The crates contained especially precious works of art including the Moor’s Head Cup, a masterwork by Nurmberg goldsmith Christoph Jamnitzer (1563-1618), along with coins, cameos and heavy gilded silver serving pieces with the Saxon Crest. The treasure was auctioned in London in 1999.
This spring, Hampel Fine Art Auctions, Munich, once again offered the vermeil pieces for sale. It was the chance of a lifetime for the Museum Schloss Mortizburg to buy their silver back. Lot number 477, the Silver Treasure of the Wettiner of Schloss, was estimated to sell for between 70,000 and 90,000 euros ($78,600-$101,100. Museum Schloss Mortizburg was pleased to be the winning bidder at a price at the lower end of the auction estimate.
The centerpiece of the purchase is a large vermeil water kettle, its curved octagon panels featuring the Saxon crest. It perches on an ornate vermeil chafing stand engraved with the royal crown and the initials F.A.R. thought to indicate Friedrich Augustus Rex (1828-1902), also known as Albert of Saxony. On the bottom one can see the silversmith’s mark, Eckert; 1885, the year of production; as well as the usual inventory number and stamp of the royal silver chamber from the Zwinger, Dresden.
For the serving of delicacies there is a large vermeil tea platter, a round serving platter and a pair of oval serving platters. Because the silver was made for a king’s table, there are some additional vessels for pure elegance. Two pairs of shell-handled vermeil strainers, two sets of four octagon saltcellars, and a pair of graceful handled sauce dishes complete the service. All of the pieces were made between 1880 and 1906, many identified as the work of Silversmith Friedrich Heinrich Emil Eckert of Dresden.
“The preparations to display the pieces are in high gear,” noted Museum Schloss Mortizburg Press Speaker Uli Kretzschmar.
Although he could not give an exact date, he estimates that visitors will be able to enjoy viewing the Wettiner silver by late summer. The moated Schloss Mortizburg, where the silver was very likely used, is an exquisite example of Baroque architecture and especially lovely during the summer months. For details visit www.schloesserland-sachsen.de
Through June 21: Auktionshaus Kaupp, Sulzburg, first exhibit in Schloss Sulzburg, in cooperation with the Davis Klemm Gallery. Graphic art, paintings and sculpture by Werner Berges. Artist Talk on Sonntag, 14. Juni. www.Kaupp.de
June 17-20: Achenbach Art Auction in Dusseldorf and Cologne auctioned by Van Ham Kunstauktionen. More than 2,100 contemporary art works from the collection of Achenbach Art Adviser Helge Achenbach. All objects are being offered with no limits. wwwVan-Ham.com
June 18-19: Galerie Kornfeld, Bern, art after 1950 and contemporary art. www.kornfeld.ch
June 18-21: Art Basel – 300 of the best galleries worldwide. Modern and contemporary paintings, sculpture, installation art, photography, prints, videos and multimedia work. More than 4,000 artists. www.ArtBasel.com
June 26: Art Auction, Schueblein Art & Auktionen, München.
June 27: Dr. Fischer Kunstauktionen. 26th Glass Auction in Zwiesel. www.Auctions-Fischer.de
June 28: Art, antique and flea market offered on the grounds of Schloss Großkmehlen bei Ortrand.
Through the end of June:Doebel Kunstauktion, Dettelbach-Effeldorf, aftersale of art from the 20th and 21st centuries.
Aug. 23: Heimat und Verkehrsverein Hünxe first Antique and Flea Market on at Heimatmuseum “Alte Bergschule Hünxe.”
By HEIDI LUX