Eighteenth-century European court society was famous for its lavish banquets featuring elaborate settings and protocols designed to indicate the status of both host and guests. Integral to these events were extravagant dining services of silver and gold, many of which subsequently were melted down to finance the frequent wars of the period. Vienna Circa 1780: An Imperial Silver Service Rediscovered, on view at The Metropolitan Museum of Art from April 13 through November 7, 2010, will present a magnificent and rare surviving Imperial silver service, made about 1779-1782.
The exhibition is made possible by the Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen Foundation.
In 2002, shortly after the Metropolitan Museum acquired two Viennese silver wine coolers from the Sachsen-Teschen Service, the core of the surviving parts was discovered in a French private collection. This superb ensemble was last displayed at the end of the 19th century and was believed to be lost. Made by Austrian Imperial court goldsmith Ignaz Josef Würth, the so-called Second Sachsen-Teschen Service comprised more than 350 items, including wine coolers, tureens, cloches, sauceboats, candelabra, candlesticks, and serving implements, as well as 24 dozen silver plates and pieces of porcelain-mounted silver and gold cutlery. Representing the splendor of royal dining during the ancien régime, the service was made for Duke Albert Casimir of Sachsen-Teschen (1738-1822) and his consort, Archduchess Marie Christine of Austria (1742-1798), daughter of Empress Maria Theresa. The ensemble will be partially reunited at the Metropolitan Museum and placed in the context of contemporary silver from other European cities.
Vienna Circa 1780 is organized by Wolfram Koeppe, Curator in the Metropolitan Museum's Department of European Sculpture and Decorative Arts.
The exhibition will be accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue Vienna Circa 1780: An Imperial Silver Service Rediscovered by Wolfram Koeppe that will be sold in the Museum's bookshops ($35).