A highly important early wheel-engraved panel of Europa and the Bull, by Caspar Lehmann, Dresden or Prague, circa 1608
Lot 31
A highly important early wheel-engraved panel of Europa and the Bull, by Caspar Lehmann, Dresden or Prague, circa 1608
Sold for £ 163,250 (US$ 216,794) inc. premium

Lot Details
A highly important early wheel-engraved panel of Europa and the Bull, by Caspar Lehmann, Dresden or Prague, circa 1608 A highly important early wheel-engraved panel of Europa and the Bull, by Caspar Lehmann, Dresden or Prague, circa 1608
A highly important early wheel-engraved panel of Europa and the Bull, by Caspar Lehmann, Dresden or Prague, circa 1608
The rectangular form of darkish tint, the bull leaping over waves bearing Europa on his back, the nymph in diaphanous flowing dress wearing a triple row of pearls about her neck and a pointed crown, inscribed above with the monogram C enclosing H surmounted by a coronet, framed by a rectangular line cartouche, 23cm high by 18.2cm wide (slight surface scratching and small rim chip)


  • Provenance:
    Anon. sale, Christie's, 3 June 1986, lot 233

    The British Museum, London, 1987-2012, on long-term loan

    Olga Drahotová, 'Neuaufgefundene Inkunabeln des Glasschnitts', Annales, 11. Congrès de l'Association Internationale pour l'Histoire du Verre, (Basel, 2 September 1988)
    Rudolf von Strasser and Walter Spiegl, Dekoriertes Glas: Der Sammlung von Rudolf von Strasser (1989), p.56, pl.59 and pp.228-229
    Hugh Tait, Five Thousand Years of Glass (1991), pp.179-181, pl.232
    Rudolf von Strasser, Licht und Farbe. Die Sammlung von Rudolf von Strasser (2002), p.203, pl.23

    This panel is one of a series executed by Caspar Lehmann either in Prague or Dresden during the first two decades of the 17th century (five of which, dated to 1605-1620, were sold at Christie's, 3 June 1986, lots 232-237). The scene is after Crispin de Passe's engraving of 1607 for Ovid's Metamorphosis. The crowned monogram is that of Christian II of Saxony and his wife Hedwig of Denmark who were married in 1602. Christian died in 1611. In 1606 Lehmann left Prague and went to Dresden, where Christian appointed him Kammeredelsteinschneider, and in March 1608, before his return to Prague, he was paid for '5 engraved glasses of which the largest is engraved with the Saxon and Danish arms'.

    The present lot was originally mounted with those sold by Christie's in a single leaded frame of the mid-19th Century of which three bear the CH monogram. One (Christie's lot 234) bears a scantily draped couple embracing with three putti in flight above; the other (Christie's, lot 235) with Cupid leading two doves towards a nude child.

    Caspar Lehmann (1563?-1622) is credited as the most important of the earliest artists to apply the technique of wheel-engraving to glass at the end of the 16th Century. In an historical context his importance is also enhanced by his very close ties to the artistic court of the Emperor Rudolf II, where he is known to have shared apartments in Prague Castle with the silversmith Paul van Vianen, the painter Hans van Aachen and the stone engraver Zacharias Peltzer, all of whom had been attracted to Prague by that greatest patron of the Arts. Lehmann would have known these artists in Munich where he served his apprenticeship as a hardstone-engraver until 1587-88, perhaps under the guidance of Peltzer or Valentin Drausch, who also appears in 1685 in Prague. Lehmann received his first payment there in 1588 and is recorded as Hoftrabant in 1590, Leibtrabant in 1594, Hartschier 1596-99, Hofdeiner in 1600 and Commeredelsteinschneider Seiner Majestät in 1601 (Imperial Gem Engraver). Following his dismissal in disgrace from the court in Prague in 1606, he worked in Dresden at the court of Christian II as Churfürstlicher sächsischer Kammeredelsteinschneider (Imperial Gem Engraver and Glass Engraver) until his return to Prague in 1608. His famous glass engraving privilege was granted in the following year. This privilege allowed Lehmann alone to practice the art of glass engraving within the Holy Roman Empire, since he had "discovered the art and business of glass engraving..." (see Tait, op.cit. p.181).

    Hugh Tait has conjectured that the present lot may be part of a group of five plaques for which Lehmann was paid in March 1608 at the end of his stay in Dresden. Another two in this group may be Diana and Actaeon (Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe, Hamburg), and Perseus and Andromeda (Victoria and Albert Museum, London), all reputed to have come from the Vittums Palais of Frederick II of Denmark in Husum.

    The only signed work by Lehmann, upon which the attribution of much of his work is based, is the celebrated Prague Frauenberger beaker dated 1605 (Decorative Arts Museum, Prague) with the three allegories of Potestas, Nobilitas and Liberalitas made for Rudolf's Chancellor, Sigismund von Losenstein and his wife Susanna von Rogendorf. There is consistency in the presentation of the faces and the hair, the tracing of the contours of the eyes and the shape of the chins which relate to the signed Frauenberger beaker and also to the figures on a rock crystal goblet in the Grünen Gewölbe in Dresden with the Bath of Diana. The female figures on the rock crystal cup, on the panel with Perseus and Andromeda in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, and on that with a political allegory (Corning Museum of Glass) all wear the same necklaces.

    For a lengthy discussion on Lehmann and a detailed analysis of his work see Olga Drahotová, 'Comments on Caspar Lehmann, Central European Glass and Hard Stone Engraving', Journal of Glass Studies, Corning, vol.23 (1981), pp.34-35 and Strasser/Spiegl, op cit. (1989), pp.53-59. Robert Charleston in his unpublished paper A 17th Century Panel at Melbourne, read at the Corning Museum of Glass Seminar, 1981, confirmed Dr. Drahotová's analyses. Both technically and stylistically the panel conforms to their observations.

    Much of Lehmann's work, in particular his three portraits and the allegorical subjects, was based on works by prominent contemporary artists or anonymous drawings by their associates which, in view of his close connections with the court, would have been readily available in any painter's or sculptor's studio; in many cases adapting or combining different elements in the one picture - a point which makes a positive identification of the original source hazardous, as also is the interpretation of the iconography of the panels sold at Christie's in 1986. At such a turbulent period of European history, the court would have had its own view-point on particular events, this now lost in the passage of time and the devastating effects of the Thirty Years War immediately following this period.
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  1. Simon Cottle
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