An important Meissen bust of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles VII, circa 1742

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Lot 46
An important Meissen bust of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles VII, circa 1742

Sold for £ 68,812 (US$ 90,534) inc. premium
An important Meissen bust of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles VII, circa 1742
Probably modelled by J.J. Kaendler and Peter Reinicke, wearing a laurel wreath and ermine-lined cloak over a cuirass with lion heads at the shoulders, on a canted, waisted rectangular pedestal moulded with a circular cartouche at the front above the inscription 'CAROLUS VII', 37.7cm high, traces of crossed swords mark in underglaze-blue to rear of base (chips to rear edge of base)


  • Provenance:
    The Collection of the Counts Waldstein, Dux Castle, Bohemia;
    Nationalised, circa 1945, thereafter in Hirschberg Castle, Bohemia;
    Rudolf Just Collection, Prague (acquired at Galerie Horejs in Prague in May 1949 and probably sold by 1967);
    Anon. sale, Christie's London, 25 February 1991, lot 173

    Gustav Pazaurek, Keramik im Nordböhmischen Gewerbe Museum Reichenberg, in Mitteilungen des Nordböhmischen Gewerbe Museums 23 (1905), p. 113;
    Rudolf Just, 'Die Kaiserbüsten von Kändler', in Mitteilungsblatt der Keramikfreunde der Schweiz 42 (1958), pp.15-16, ill. 18;
    Johanna Lessmann, Meissen Porcelain for the Imperial House in Vienna, in M. Cassidy-Geiger (ed.), Fragile Diplomacy Meissen Porcelain for European Courts ca. 1710-63 (2007), p. 134;
    M. Cassidy-Geiger, The Arnhold Collection of Meissen Porcelain 1710-50 (2008), p. 241, n.10

    New York, The Bard Graduate Center, 'Fragile Diplomacy', 15 November 2007-10 February 2008, no. 99

    This is the only example of this bust recorded in the literature.

    See Lessmann (2007), pp. 119-134, for a comprehensive discussion of the series of Meissen busts commissioned in 1744 by the Electress of Saxony and Queen of Poland, Maria Josepha, as a monument to the Habsburg dynasty and its rise to imperial rank (Lessmann, p. 119). With the exception of the present lot, all of the busts depict Habsburg rulers (twelve emperors and five kings). Lessmann notes (p. 119) that it is quite possible that the impetus for the commission came from the court in Vienna; Archduchess Maria Amalia, the Empress Maria Theresia's sister, visited the Meissen manufactory in March 1744 together with her husband, Karl Alexander of Lorraine. The first mention of the busts in the Meissen manufactory work reports is in April 1744 and the last in December 1747 (only nine are specifically referred to).

    It remains unclear why and when the bust of Charles VII was commissioned. Rudolf Just noted (p. 16) that, as a Bavarian Wittelsbach, Charles VII did not belong to the series of busts of Habsburg rulers, and concluded that it may have been commissioned because the Holy Roman Emperor was married to Maria Josepha's sister and so was a brother-in-law of Maria Josepha and Augustus III. Johanna Lessmann has discussed the anomalous status of the bust in more detail (pp. 122-123), observing that - because of the precarious state of relations between Charles VII, the Habsburg and Saxon/Polish courts - it is unlikely that the bust of the Emperor could have been created much later than early 1742, and raises the possibility that it might have been commissioned to mark his coronation in February 1742, possibly even as a gift from Augustus III. Another possibility, perhaps less likely, is that the bust was commissioned following the Emperor's death on 20th January 1745. Charles VII's successor as Elector of Bavaria, Maximilian III Joseph, concluded a peace treaty with Austria that was signed on 22 April 1745 in Füssen, in which he abandoned his father's claim to Bohemia and recognised the Pragmatic Sanction of 1713. In return, the Austrians acknowledged the legitimacy of Charles VII as Holy Roman Emperor.

    Charles VII

    Karl Albrecht of Bavaria (1697-1745) was elected Holy Roman Emperor on 24 January 1742, the first non-Habsburg emperor for three centuries. He married the younger daughter of the Habsburg Emperor Joseph I, Maria Amalia, in 1722. In 1726, he succeeded his father as Elector of Bavaria, while also harbouring ambitions to the imperial throne. To this end, after the death of Charles VI in 1740, he rejected the Pragmatic Sanction of 1713 and allied with France and Spain against Austria in the Wars of the the Austrian Succession. During his short reign that was mostly spent in Frankfurt, Charles VII never gained effective control of Bavaria let alone the Holy Roman Empire. In order to buttress his claim to the imperial throne, Karl Albrecht, engaged the architect François Cuvilliés to design the sumptuous state appartments in the Munich Residence (the so-called "Rich Rooms"), which were furnished with the most precious furniture and decoration, as well the Amalienburg in the park of Nymphenburg, among the highest achievements of the Rococo style.

    Notes on Provenance

    The oldest and largest collection of ceramics in Bohemia was housed in the palace of the Counts Waldstein at Dux (Duchov) in Bohemia adjoining the library, for which Casanova was responsible in the fifteen years up to his death in 1798. Goethe visited the palace in 1813, and the following year Count Franz Adam Waldstein arranged for the historic pieces to be exhibited as a collection. A guide to the palace at Dux was published in the early 19th century - an indication of its popularity - that refers to collections of Chinese and Japanese porcelain and Italian maiolica. It is likely that the series of twenty-two Meissen busts (including the present lot) were in the possession of the Waldstein family shortly after their creation. Augustus III visited Dux in 1739 and purchased much of the paintings collection in 1741. According to Rudolf Just ('Unbemalte Augustus-Rex Vasen', in Mitteilungsblatt der Keramikfreunde der Schweiz 48 (1959), p. 28), much of the European pottery and Chinese and Japanese porcelain from the collection survived the Second World War, whereas little of the European porcelain remained. Twenty of the Meissen busts were sold by the Czechoslovakian State in May 1949, of which twelve were acquired by the Decorative Arts Museum in Prague, where they remain.

    The Prague collector, Rudolf Just (1895-1972), acquired six of the Meissen busts in 1949. He was the last of a great tradition of Central European collectors of the decorative arts that includes such renowned conoisseurs Adalbert von Lanna, Wilhelm Gumprecht and Gustav von Gerhardt. He was a scholarly and obsessive collector, who famously inspired the fictional collector of Meissen porcelain in Bruce Chatwin's novel Utz (1988). He sold three of his Meissen busts (including the present lot) in 1967; two were acquired by Peter Ludwig and are now exhibited in Bamberg (R. Hanemann (pub.), Goldchinesen und Indianische Blumen (2010), nos. 84). The other three were sold together with the remainder of his collection by Sotheby's Olympia, 11 December 2001, lots 145-147.
An important Meissen bust of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles VII, circa 1742
An important Meissen bust of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles VII, circa 1742
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