Ignatz Joseph Würth Antique Austrian Silver Imperial Dinner Plates from the Second Sachsen-Teschen Service, Vienna, 1781
From the famous and grand service commissioned by Prince Albert Casimir of Saxony, Duke of Teschen, and his wife Archduchess Maria Christina of Austria, these two dinner plates are splendid examples of 18thcentury Austrian Imperial silver.
"As with [the] serving dishes, the service's two hundred eight-eight plates... feature curved outer edges and rims decorated with rippled surfaces and crossed stripes resembling fasces, a motif inspired by ancient Roman bundled rods".1
The important Second Sachsen-Teschen Service, until recently thought lost, was the focus of a major exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art,Vienna Circa 1780: An Imperial Silver Service Rediscovered, and its accompanying catalogue.
Magnificent in every way, the pieces of this great neoclassical service were influenced by both French and Italian design. The service was commissioned during the period of 1779-82 while Albert and Maria Christina were joint imperial governors of the Austrian Netherlands and it is believed that her mother, Austrian Empress Maria Theresa paid for it. This extraordinary service was meant to convey the great wealth, luxury and power of the Austrian court.
Childless, Albert and Maria Christina adopted Archduke Charles, the third son of her brother, Holy Roman Emperor Leopold II. Charles became a Field Marshall and a hero in the wars against Napoleon. His coat of arms now adorns the entire service, including these plates.
Surviving Austrian silver from the 18thcentury is very rare - the vast majority of it was melted to pay for the Napoleonic wars which devastated Austria and ended the Holy Roman Empire after over 800 years. Each of these plates is stamped on the front with the 1806 tax mark (see above). Because of the extreme hardship and expense of the war against Napoleon, Emperor Francis I imposed this tax on all gold and silver. Most Austrians could not afford the tax and their precious metals were given in payment to the crown and melted into currency. Fortunately, Albert and Maria Christina could afford the tax and this service was saved.
Imperial silversmith Ignatz Joseph Würth was famous throughout Europe as one of the very finest silversmiths, supplying services to many of the royalty and aristocracy in eastern and northern Europe. Scholars have considered this, The Second Sachsen-Teschen Service, to be his finest achievement and they mourned its disappearance until its recent rediscovery.
These rare plates are stamped on the reverse with the makers mark for Ignatz Joseph Würth along with the Viennese hallmark for 1781. The plates are also numbered '175' and '194' from the service of 288 plates. Also scratched on the back are the weights. The front of each is stamped with the '12.A' tax mark. Plate number 175 and 194 weigh 17.75 and 17.20 troy ounces respectively. They are in excellent antique condition.
In conjunction with the exhibitionVienna Circa 1780, the Metropolitan Museum of Art held a symposium which they have published on YouTube®. A lecture about the service can be watched here:
Another on 18thcentury royal dining and the palace environment in which the service lived can be viewed here.