Maker: Ignaz Joseph Würth (Austrian, first mentioned 1769, died 1792)
Culture: Austrian, Vienna
Dimensions: Overall (wt confirmed): 11 15/16 x 9 7/8 in., 6000g (30.3 x 25.1 cm, 6kg)
Credit Line: Purchase, Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen Foundation Gift, 2002
Accession Number: 2002.265.1a, b
The wine coolers formed part of the now dispersed so-called Second Duke of Sachsen-Teschen Service, which originally included all kinds of silver tableware as befit the splendor of royal dining. The overall style is indebted to French Neoclassical designs and encapsulates the strong appreciation of contemporary French art and culture by the patrons, Duke Albert Casimir of Sachsen-Teschen (d. 1822) and his consort, Archduchess Maria Christina of Austria (d. 1798), sister of Queen Marie-Antoinette and daughter of Empress Maria Theresa. Nonetheless, the vigorous design, the sparkling play of textures, and the daring juxtaposition of classical elements with whimsical sculptural details embody the freshness of the Viennese interpretation of high-style French Neoclassicism. In 1780 the duke and archduchess were appointed joint governors of the Austrian Netherlands. Imperial court goldsmith Wiirth created a magnificent service that fully exploited the light- reflective quality of the precious metal. Draped around the wine coolers' bodies are lion skins, which refer to Hercules' wearing the skin of the Nemean lion as a symbol of his strength. The lion skins also teasingly evoke insulation of the coolers. The trophies and grapevines symbolize Bacchus, god of wine and erotic ecstasy, representing the triumph of the pleasures of life over an ancient symbol of worldly power.