I am fortunate, if not a little spoilt, in that I get to see objects from all periods and in most media during the year and have the opportunity to share them with you through my blog. I am sharing this with you and considering that I saw it at Frieze Masters in October you may well be right in thinking that perhaps this is something I would like to keep for myself. But it is in my view far too good an item to be selfish about. Sadly, no I don’t own it.
Many of you will recognise that this sécrétaire has the hallmarks of the Roentgen workshops at Neuwied and you would be correct as its maker Theodor Commer (1773-1853) trained there. The sécrétaire was commissioned specially by Johann William Neel (1744-1819) – you can see his entwined inlaid initials on the roll-top front – to contain his collection of forty-eight wax reliefs by Caspar Bernhard Hardy (1726-1819). Hardy was a cleric at Cologne Cathedral and so knew Neel.
Hardy’s great forte was producing these framed allegorical wax portraits, often sourced from contemporary genre paintings and prints and also from porcelain figures. His works were extremely popular and sought after. Goethe collected them too and wrote of his collection “they deserve to be shown in a museum in Cologne for they clearly demonstrate that we are here in the city of Rubens, in the Lower Rhine, where colour has always dominated and exalted works of art”.
To me this sécrétaire is a perfectly formed small museum and it is no surprise that it is being sold by the Munich based firm Kunstkammer Georg Laue who specialise in 16th – 18th century museum-quality objects that were collected for Kunst- and Wunderkammer. This sécrétaire certainly fits that brief wonderfully well.
Kunstkammer Georg Laue, Schellingstraße 56, 80799 München