Pair of wine coolers, marked 1781
Ignaz Josef Würth (Austrian, first mentioned 1769, d. 1792)
Silver; H. 11 3/8 in. (28.9 cm), Wt. 389 oz. (11,028 gr)
Purchase, Anna–Maria and Stephen Kellen Foundation Gift, 2002 (2002.265.1a,b,.2a)
These wine coolers formed part of the now-dispersed "Second Duke of Sachsen-Teschen Service," which originally included all kinds of silver tableware befitting splendid royal dining habits. The overall style encapsulates the strong appreciation of contemporary French Neoclassical art and culture by the patrons, Duke Albert Casimir of Sachsen-Teschen (d. 1822) and his consort, Archduchess Maria Christina of Austria (d. 1798), daughter of Empress Maria Theresa and sister of Queen Marie Antoinette. The vigorous design, sparkling play of textures, and daring juxtaposition of classical elements with whimsical sculptural details are Viennese interjections.
In 1780, the duke and archduchess were appointed joint governors of the Austrian Netherlands. Imperial court goldsmith Würth created a magnificent service that fully exploits the light-reflective quality of the precious metal. Draped around the bodies of the wine coolers are lion skins, a reference to Hercules wearing the coat of the Nemean lion as a symbol of his strength. The lion skins also teasingly evoke the insulating properties of the coolers. The trophies and grapevines symbolize Bacchus, god of wine and erotic ecstasy, representing the triumph of the pleasures of life.