Item #4310 A rococo embossed silver-gilt binding, on a suite of 17th-century engravings of saints. SILVER-GILT BINDING.
A rococo embossed silver-gilt binding, on a suite of 17th-century engravings of saints.
A rococo embossed silver-gilt binding, on a suite of 17th-century engravings of saints.
A rococo embossed silver-gilt binding, on a suite of 17th-century engravings of saints.
A rococo embossed silver-gilt binding, on a suite of 17th-century engravings of saints.
A rococo embossed silver-gilt binding, on a suite of 17th-century engravings of saints.
A rococo embossed silver-gilt binding, on a suite of 17th-century engravings of saints.
A touch of flash

A rococo embossed silver-gilt binding, on a suite of 17th-century engravings of saints. The binding probably Augsburg, ca. 1725-1750.

Agenda-format, binding size 155 x 78 x 24 mm. Contents: 143 small engravings (all but the first 48-50 x 35-37 mm., the first, mounted sideways, measuring 50 x 97 mm.), consisting of 11 engravings for each saint, trimmed to borders and mounted on 78 leaves of wove paper. 18th-century German silver-gilt embossed binding (regilt in the 19th century), both covers with a large oval cartouche, containing a scene of the Crucifixion on the upper cover and the Resurrection on lower cover, both covers with cherubs within ornamental foliage at the four corners, the pair at top holding a cartouche with a scene of the Entombment on upper cover, and the Ascension on lower cover, the pair at the foot holding laurel wreaths and flanking a winged angel’s head; spine with embossed flowers, ribbons and foliate ornaments above and below a central scene of Moses with the brazen serpent, at top a monogram of the letters CJ; two chased metal fore-edge clasps, attaching on upper cover; lined in later (19th-century) green watered silk, edges gilt and gauffered. Housed in a folding cloth felt-lined folding case, upper cover with morocco gilt label with Abbey’s named coat of arms; his paper shelf-mark label JA 2680 on lower cover. Provenance: unidentified monogram on binding; Major John Roland Abbey (1894-1969), bookplate on case; see Hayward, Silver Bindings, no. 17; Bernard Breslauer, anonymous sale, Sotheby’s, 10 May, 1985, “Silver and Enamel Bindings,” lot 26 (unsold).***

A stunning embossed silver-gilt binding, almost certainly produced in Augsburg, from the collection of Major Abbey.

The binding dates from the “last phase of baroque and the fully developed rococo” (Hayward), the final, culminating period of Augsburg craftsmanship in embossed silver. Describing this binding and two others from the collection, Hayward wrote: “the most finely worked book-covers in the Abbey Collection date from the second quarter of the Eighteenth Century.... The subjects are the familiar scenes from the life of Christ, but treated even in the small compass of a book-cover with extraordinary dramatic force.... The designs were probably derived from a contemporary illustrated Bible, but their effectiveness is greatly enhanced by the relief in which they are rendered, and by the strong contrasts of light and shade” (p. [3]). To accentuate the pathos, the silversmith or designer chose to highlight minor characters: in the dramatic Crucifixion scene the most deeply embossed figures, occupying the foreground, are two soldiers throwing dice at the foot of the cross; similarly the centurion is the largest and most solid figure in the Resurrection scene on the lower cover.

The binding encloses an album of 143 fine small unsigned 17th-century, probably Flemish engravings of Franciscan saints, neatly mounted on wove paper. The Antwerp engraver and print publisher Philips Galle had initiated the vogue for “Franciscan” prints with his series of engravings of the Life of St. Francis, first produced before 1580 (cf. Sellink, pp. 129-131). The present suite contains 13 series, each with 11 small engravings depicting a saint or group of saints, as follows: St. Francis, The 5 Martyred Saints, the 7 Martyred Saints, Anthony of Padua, Bonaventura, Ludovicus Episcopius, Bernardino of Siena, John of Capestrano, Didacus (Diego of Alcalá), Clare of Assisi, Elizabeth of Hungary (S. Elizabeth vidua), Louis (of France) and Elzear. With one exception (John of Capestrano instead of St. Ivo of Brittany), these were the saints chosen by Hendrik Sedulius, guardian of the Antwerp Franciscans, for his Imagines Sanctorum Francisci, printed and illustrated by Philips Galle in 1602, but that quarto-format work only includes one large engraving per saint, each accompanied by a page of text. The exact source of this more extensive small format suite remains to be identified. Each engraving has a caption citing a chapter number.

Major John Roland Abbey assembled the largest English book collection of his generation. His first love was bindings, and among these he brought together an exceptional group of silver bindings, some of which were described and illustrated by John F. Hayward in an article published in The Connoisseur in 1952. The present binding is number 17; Hayward noted its earlier regilding, as well as the “fine quality” of the embossing. Bernard Breslauer later bought the collection en bloc from Abbey’s widow, “and in 1985 Bernard consigned the collection (with some additions from his own stock) to Sotheby’s London. Despite Sotheby’s well-illustrated and informative catalogue, the sale was calamitous: of the fifty-eight silver and enamel bindings, only fourteen met the reserve” (Laird, p. 67). This binding was not one of them.

Cf. M. S. Sellink, Philips Galle (1537-1612): engraver and print publisher in Haarlem and Antwerp (PhD Thesis,Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, 1997, online). J. F. Hayward, Silver Bindings from the J. R. Abbey Collection, offprint from The Connoisseur, October 1952. Cf. M. Laird, “Bernd (Bernard) Hartmut Breslauer (1918-2004): A Personal Memoir,” Gazette of the Grolier Club 72 (2023), 59-92. Thanks to Mr. Laird for sharing the sale results from B. Breslauer’s own catalogue, in his possession.





Item #4310

Price: $12,500.00