A Jeweler Picks Up Where Nature Left Off. Johann Christian Neuber’s Gold-and-Stone Snuff Boxes at the Frick
[The New York Times, http://www.frick.org] Most intoxicating vices involve some kind of paraphernalia, designed for convenience, traveling light and, often, showing off. These run the gamut from engraved silver liquor flasks, Art Deco cigarette cases and Moroccan leather hashish pouches to the so-called beer hats of today.
While few such objects distill thought, skill and materials into that thing called art, there are exceptions. Outstanding among these are the gemstone snuffboxes created by the German goldsmith Johann Christian Neuber (1736-1808), working in Dresden, the cosmopolitan capital of Saxony. Nearly 30 of these boxes, generally no larger than the palm of a hand, dominate “Gold, Jasper and Carnelian: Johann Christian Neuber at the Saxon Court,” on view at the Frick Collection.
Ensconced in the museum’s Oval Room, the show’s 43 small, impeccably wrought wonders also include gemstone buttons, a cane handle, several bonbonnières (candy boxes) and one astounding piece of furniture, a modest-size but luxuriously decorated oval table. It was commissioned from Neuber by his chief patron, Friedrich Augustus III (1750-1827), Elector of Saxony, in 1779, as a gift to the French diplomat Baron de Breteuil. Still owned by the baron’s family, it has never before crossed the Atlantic. Read More.
The Frick Collection presents the first comprehensive introduction to Neuber’s oeuvre, including important diplomatic gifts and approximately thirty-five snuffboxes, bonbonnières (candy boxes), and fashionable accessories. These objects were appreciated not only at the Saxon court but also throughout Europe. Offered as refined gifts, they were also acquired to attest to the wealth and good taste of their owners. Snuffboxes were especially fashionable: more than containers for tobacco powder, they were elegant accessories of a highly sophisticated society. Carried in hand or taken from a pocket, the delicate box would immediately arouse admiration.
The exhibition is co-organized by the Grünes Gewölbe of the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, Galerie J. Kugel, Paris, and The Frick Collection. Support for the presentation in New York is generously provided by Walter and Vera Eberstadt, Aso O. Tavitian, Margot and Jerry Bogert, and an anonymous donor.
If there is anyone reading this post who has not visited New York City, or who is not familiar with the Frick Collection, run – don’t walk – to the museum the minute you arrive in the City. The museum is the former residence of Henry Clay Frick, a steel magnate of an earlier day, who bequeathed his mansion and his collection to the City of New York upon his death in 1919. The museum is just south of The Metropolitan Museum of Art on 5th Avenue.
- A Jeweler Picks Up Where Nature Left Off (nytimes.com)