Exhibition: September 10 – November 8, 2014
Silver-gilt from Strasbourg - 16th – 19th century
Monday to Saturday, 10.30am - 7.00pm
Fifty years ago, almost to the day, a memorable exhibition was presented at the Kugel gallery which was then located at 7 rue de la Paix in Paris: entitled “The Golden Age of Strasbourg goldsmith’s art”, it was curated in collaboration with Hans Haug, the charismatic emeritus director of the Strasbourg Museum.
To celebrate this anniversary and pay tribute to their father Jacques, Alexis and Nicolas Kugel have decided, this year, to give particular pride of place to silver-gilt – also called vermeil.
This ambitious exhibition enables a whole new generation to discover some of the most exquisite silver masterpieces from the 16th to the 19th century.
STRASBOURG: A EUROPEAN CAPITAL
A crossroads of both the arts and of Europe, the ‘free’ city of Strasbourg was renowned for its unparalleled gilding and the exceptional skills of its goldsmiths.
By honouring several generations of Strasbourg goldsmiths, the Kugel gallery thus celebrates three centuries of artistic excellence.
The exhibition articulates along two chronological axes: the German influence during the Renaissance and the Baroque, followed by the 18th and 19th century French influence, including Rococo and Neoclassicism.
Cups and artefacts showing strong German influence, Strasbourg, circa 1570-1650
The Duchess of Mecklenburg-Strelitz’s silver-gilt toilet service,
Strasbourg, 1784, by Johann Heinrich I OERTEL and Gottfried IMLIN © Hughes Dubois
BETWEEN GERMANY AND FRANCE
The most significant city of the Germanic Alsace region, from where numerous princely houses originate, Strasbourg is, first, a flourishing German artistic centre.
The numerous talented craftsmen belong to the powerful guild of goldsmiths known as the ‘tribu de l’Echasse’, which rigorously assays the quality of craftsmen’s work. On the metal insculpation plates that still exist today, one can count more than 500 marks dating back from 1540 up to the French Revolution.
After the annexation of Strasbourg to France in 1681, French influence gathers momentum, notably reaching its height with the building of the Rohan Palace by Robert de Cotte, one of the most prestigious Parisian architects.
The particular status of the town, where the use of the lower German silver standard, together with lower taxes, are maintained, benefits goldsmiths who then specialize in luxurious artefacts commissioned among others by the ruling reigning houses of the neighbouring states of Hesse-Darmstadt or the Palatinate.
Alexis and Nicolas Kugel © Guillaume Benoit
A TWO-FOLD AMBITION
As with every thematic exhibition, Alexis and Nicolas Kugel’s approach to curating reflects a two-fold ambition: that of their research in Art History and that of their profession antiques dealers, since all the artefacts on display are for sale. Thanks to their expertise and advice, they contribute to the building of great collections and the enriching of museums.
The catalogue that complements the exhibition offers a scientific study for each object as well as an exhaustive directory of all Strasbourg goldsmiths from 1540 to the Revolution, and will soon become the reference book on the topic.
The refinement and beauty of Strasbourg silver, passionately sought after by 20th-century great collectors, such as the David-Weills, the Rothschilds or the Patiños, will undoubtedly appeal to new generations of collectors and connoisseurs.
With more than one hundred objects, the exhibition sheds light on the dual influence under which Strasbourg goldsmiths developed, while covering most styles and forms.
The German influence at work during the Renaissance is illustrated by a remarkable cup in the form of a bear, the only animal-shaped artefact known to have been made in Strasbourg, as well as by a series of five beakers engraved around 1570 by the best goldsmith of his time, Georg Kobenhaupt – unique pieces of unmatched craftsmanship.
Silver-gilt bear, Strasbourg, circa 1570-80,
by Diebolt KRUG © Hughes Dubois
Silver-gilt beaker, Strasbourg circa 1740,
by Johann Jacob EHRLEN © Hughes Dubois
A number of covered cups and beakers forming part of the exhibition reflect the influence of the major German goldsmiths’ centres of Nuremberg and Augsburg. Representative of the Baroque period which followed the Thirty-Years’ War, an extraordinary cup carried out for the guild of goldsmiths and decorated with scenes that precisely represent a goldsmith’s workshop, is presented.
Under the French influence of the 18th century, a specific type of tulip-shaped beaker appears, known as “pinched ribs” beakers. A superb example by Johann Jacob Ehrlen coming from the Rothschild collections was on display at the 1964 exhibition.
Ecuelles are one of Strasbourg goldsmiths’ specialities. The exhibition presents about ten of them, carried out between 1700 and 1785 and reflecting the stylistic evolution.
The most sumptuous example of the rocaille style is the Duchess of Mecklenburg-Strelitz’s toilet service, or the service carried out a few years later by the goldsmith Johannes Jacob Kirstein for the Countess von der Leyden, in a radically different style.
GALERIE J.KUGEL - NICOLAS AND ALEXIS KUGEL
Nicolas and Alexis Kugel are the fifth generation of a family of antiques dealers founded in Russia at the end of the 18th century by their great-great-grandfather Elie Kugel, a collector of clocks and watches. Inspired by his father’s interests, Elie’s son Joseph trained as a clock repairer and subsequently went on to deal in both clocks and antique silver and jewellery. Elie’s grandson Matias (1876-1968) later continued the tradition, dealing in antiques in Minsk and St Petersburg.
Matias’s son Jacques (1912-1985), Nicolas and Alexis’s father, was born in Russia in 1912 and emigrated to Paris in 1924 where he established his own antiques business, first on the rue Amélie in 1958 and then on the rue de la Paix. Jacques specialised in silver and gold boxes and expanded the business to fine furniture, works of art and sculpture. In 1970 he opened the prestigious gallery at 279, rue Saint-Honoré, establishing his reputation and attracting important clients from around the world.
Nicolas and Alexis Kugel took over the gallery following their father’s death in 1985 and to this day continue the family tradition of sourcing the world’s finest antiques and works of art.
In 2004, Nicolas and Alexis Kugel relocated Galerie J.Kugel to an exceptional and historical space: the Hôtel Collot, located at the heart of Paris, 25 quai Anatole France, opposite the place de la Concorde and Tuileries garden, two steps away from the Louvre and the musée d’Orsay. This place is the essential one to visit for connoisseurs, collectors and curators from all over the world, and contributes to Paris’s influence as a cultural capital.
Galerie J. Kugel is unique in the extensity of its specialities and the eclecticism of the works of art it offers, which range in date from medieval and Renaissance up to the 1850s. This includes silver, furniture, sculpture, paintings, Kunstkammer objects and treasures. All art works are carefully selected for their rarity, their authenticity and their condition, as well as for the exquisite quality of their materials, the fineness of their making, their intrinsic beauty and their ability to conjure up a glorious past and the skills of the artists who carried them out.
Free entry, Monday to Saturday, 10:30 a.m. – 7 p.m.
The exhibition is accompanied by a splendid work edited by Alexis Kugel:
‘VERMEILLEUX, l’argent doré de Strasbourg du XVIe au XIXe siècle’
Editions Monelle Hayot
352 pages, 85 €
25 Quai Anatole France
Métro: musée d’Orsay, Assemblée Nationale (RER C and line 12)
Heymann, Renoult Associées / Agnès Renoult, Eléonore Grau & Bénédicte Wagner
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