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Three Rare German Beaded Table Tops

From The Collection of Mrs. John Gutfreund

Stair is pleased to have not one, but three rare German beaded glass table tops by Johann Michael van Selow to be offered for sale on Saturday, March 23rd, 2019.

These three rare table tops were made in Braunschweig, Germany in the mid to the third quarter of the 18th century. They were created in a factory run by Johann Michael van Selow, under the Royal patronage Duke Carl I of Braunschweig. The factory was in existence less than twenty years (1755-1772) and few examples of this colorful beadwork exist. Examples of van Selow’s work can be seen in the Städtisches Museum in Braunschweig and in the Bowes Museum, Barnard Castel. Perhaps the grandest example of this beadwork technique exists in a salon of the Chinese Palace at the Oranienbaum complex of palaces (now Lomonosov) near St. Petersburg. Built in the 1760’s by Antonio Rinaldi for Catherine the Great, the room contains panels depicting fantastic rococo chinoiserie scenes of embroidered and painted silk, which are surrounded by large panels woven of blue, mauve and pink glass beads.

Beadwork was made in a number of European cities, but in the middle of the 18th century Braunschweig was the center for these magnificent table tops. In February 1756, an advertisement in the Braunschweiger Auseiger, described the several sorts of small and large tables which were for sale. They were described as ‘a new discovery’ and were said to be as hard as stone. The subject matter was often of still-lives, garden designs, or occasionally the rococo designs of the painter Conrad Rudolph Pfeiffer. The richly detailed and sought-after garden designs are that of formal gardens fashionable at the end of the 17th and beginning of the 18th century. They are highlighted by pagodas, manor houses and large arcaded hedges, ornamental trees, and delightful rococo parterres. The designs may have been influenced by the elaborate German royal gardens of Schwetzingen Castle or Herrenhausen Palace.

The van Selow factory largely produced pieces decorated with colored beads that were set on a tinplate, pottery or wooden frame. The designs were drawn out on cardboard and traced onto the carcass of the pieces to be decorated. The soft, plaster-like composition was then applied to the piece, colored in different areas to match the ground color of the beadwork. The factory workers strung beads on linen thread and laid them out on the board patterns, cutting the strings to size before laying them on the soft composition. They occasionally added extra details in the form of mother-of-pearl or large pieces of colored glass imitating precious stones or enamel plaques. The composition dried to a very hard and durable finish. This kind of beadwork was highly fragile because of the movement in the wooden frame over time, however because the color of the glass does not fade, the pieces have kept their original vibrant colors. The most substantial part of the entire process was the production of flat panels for use as tea or coffee tables placed on wooden frames.

Mrs. Gutfreund’s passion for the rare and unusual, as well as her access to private European collections, auction houses and dealers enabled her to collect these rare German tables.

Related Literature:

A Kennet, The Palaces of Leningrad, London 1973, p. 244.

  1. Kreisel, Die Kunst des Deutschen Möbels, Spätbarock und Rokoko, München 1970, p. 273-274, pl. 881.

A Flöck, A. Raunch, Manufakatur von Selow aus Braunschweig – Glasperienmosaike des Rokoko, Braunschweig 2005, p. 44-49.

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