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George II's Hanoverian Silver Chandeliers

Balthasar Friedrich Behrens (1701-1760)

Category

Historic Services / Lighting

Date

circa 1736 - 1737

Materials

Silver

Measurements

118.1 x 106.7 cm

Place of origin

Hanover

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Collection

Anglesey Abbey, Cambridgeshire (Accredited Museum)

On show at

Anglesey Abbey, Cambridgeshire, East of England, National Trust

NT 516422.2

Summary

One of originally five silver chandeliers, two of which are at Anglesey Abbey (NT 516422.1 and 2), commissioned by King George II (1680-1760) and made by Balthasar Friedrich Behrens (active 1728; died 1760) following designs by the architect William Kent (c.1685-1748) for the Leineschloss, Hanover in 1736-7. Cast, openwork, strapwork, appliqué, repoussé, and chased silver. It incorporates the key national symbols of Britain and Hanover, such as, at the top, a globe, which bears the white horse of Hanover in relief, while above it a pair of putti is surmounted by the English royal crown.

Full description

One of originally five silver chandeliers, two of which are at Anglesey Abbey (NT 516422.1 and 2), commissioned by King George II (1680-1760) and made by Balthasar Friedrich Behrens (active 1728; died 1760) following designs by the architect William Kent (c.1685-1748) for the Leineschloss, Hanover in 1736-7. Cast, openwork, strapwork, appliqué, repoussé, and chased silver. It incorporates the key national symbols of Britain and Hanover, such as, at the top, a globe, which bears the white horse of Hanover in relief, while above it a pair of putti is surmounted by the English royal crown. The chandeliers were commissioned by George II, King of England and Elector of Hanover, probably for the Rittersaal, a large presence chamber or ball room, at the Leineschloss (destroyed during the Second World War). The large room featured a heavily adorned plaster ceiling, decorated by Italian craftsmen with Hanoverian coats-of-arms and portraits of the Guelph dynasty (Burchard 2014, p. 59). In 1731, George II had acquired the silver furniture made for his cousin, the duke of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel, consisting of pair of tables, four torchères and two particularly large mirrors. Silver furniture has been a particularly popular status symbol amongst European monarchs. While Louis XIV – who had by far the largest suite of silver furniture, which furnished not only the hall of mirrors, but most of the king’s reception rooms at Versailles – was forced to have his furniture melted down to release funds for his military campaigns, other sovereigns were able to keep theirs. The pieces still in the possession of the Prince of Hanover are particularly noteworthy examples; so, too, are Queen Christina’s silver throne in the Swedish Royal Collection, Charles II’s and William III’s suite in the British Royal Collection, as well as the Jensen set at Knole (NT 130034, 130035, 130036.1 and 2). Two of George II’s chandeliers are at Anglesey Abbey, one at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston (1985.854) and another one previously in the Givenchy collection, was last sold at Christie’s King Street, London, in 2011 (The Exceptional Sale 2011, 7 July 2011, lot. 52). The whereabouts of the fifth chandelier remain unknown. The first detailed study on the chandeliers was published by Ellenor Alcorn in The Burlington Magazine in 1997 in which she drew extensively from the rich sources in the Hanoverian State archives: ‘[The first contract with Behrens] specified two chandeliers to be made “after the carved wooden model provided”... The two chandeliers were delivered on 13th and 22nd September [1736] respectively and Behrens signed a contract to make three more, at the same rate to be delivered before 1st September 1737. The remaining three chandeliers were not completed until November 1737, but the Oberhofmarschall [Lord Chamberlain] von Reden observed in a letter on 23rd May 1738 to the king that the workmanship was ‘a good deal cleaner than the first two’ (Alcorn 1997, p. 41). In January 1736, a carved wooden model had been sent from London to Hanover, presumably to make the moulds from which to cast the chandeliers. Alcorn noted that ‘the somewhat rigid rending in silver reflects the stiff medium of the wood model, which did not allow the softer qualities, present in Kent’s design, that might have been achieved in wax’ (Alcorn 1997, p. 41). In 1744, John Vardy produced an engraving of Kent and Behrens Hanoverian chandelier: ‘Chandelier for the King’ published in Some Designs of Mr. Inigo Jones and Mr. Wm. Kent (1744), plate 23. The commission of five chandeliers for the electoral palace in Hanover is an extremely important chapter in the history of Georgian decorative arts. It is one of the very few instances, when the Hanoverian encouraged the collaboration of designers and craftsmen from both their territories, i.e. Britain and Hanover. Until then, George I and George II neatly distinguished between their British artists producing works for their British palaces and German artists producing works for their German palaces. When Napoleon invaded Hanover in 1803, George III had the chandeliers and the two sets of Hanoverian tables, torchères and mirrors brought to Windsor Castle. They were restored and installed in the Queen’s Ball Room, next to the sets of Charles II and William III, as recorded in Charles Wilde’s watercolour made for Pyne’s Royal Residences (Royal Collection, RCIN 922101). In the watercolour you can see three of the chandeliers hanging from the ceiling decorated by Antonio Verrio. The silver furniture returned to the Leineschloss upon the accession of Queen Victoria in 1837, which marked the end of the Union between Britain and Hanover. Following the death of the last Crown Prince of Hanover in 1923, the chandeliers were sold to the Viennese silver dealer Elkan Silberman.

Provenance

Commissioned by George II for the Leineschloss in Hanover in 1736-7. Sold by the heirs of the last Crown Prince of Hanover in 1924. Part of the Fairhaven Collection. The house and contents were bequeathed to the National Trust in 1966 by Huttleston Rogers Broughton, 1st Lord Fairhaven (1896-1966).

Makers and roles

Balthasar Friedrich Behrens (1701-1760) William Kent (Bridlington 1685 – London 1748), designer

References

Alcorn 1997: Ellenor M. Alcorn, ‘“A Chandelier for the King”: William Kent, George II, and Hanover’, The Burlington Magazine 139 (January 1997), pp. 40-3 Alcorn 1993: Ellenor M. Alcorn, ‘The Hanover Chandelier’, Christie’s International Magazine (October/November 1993), pp. 24-7 Arminjon 2007: Catherine Arminjon (ed.), Quand Versailles était meublé d’argent (ex. cat.), Paris 2007 Burchard 2014: Wolf Burchard, ‘Houses, Palaces and Gardens: The First Georgians and Architecture’ in Desmond Shawe-Taylor (ed.), The First Georgians: Art and Monarchy, 1714-1760 (ex. cat.), Royal Collection Publication, London 2014, pp. 52-87 Podos 1992: Lisa B. Podos, ‘A Reflection of Taste: The Silver Chandelier Executed for George II at Herrenhausen after a Design by William Kent’ (MA dissertation, Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, Parsons School of Design, New York 1992) Seelig 1994: Lorenz Seeling, Silber und Gold: Augsburger Schmiedekunst für die Höfe Europas (ex. cat.), Bayrisches Nationalmuseum, Munich 1994, pp. 354-73 Snodin 2013: Michael Snodin, ‘Kent’s Metawork Designs’ in Susan Weber (ed.), William Kent: Designing Georgian Britain (ex. cat.), New Haven and London 2013, pp. 527-47

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