An extremely fine and beautiful German late seventeenth century black slate inlaid and engraved mother-of-pearl table top by Franz de Hamilton signed F. De H within a scroll, above a later French Art Deco gilt wrought iron support attributed to Gilbert Poillerat, the rectangular moulded top intricately inlaid overall featuring a butterfly at centre encircled by abundant ribbon-tied floral wreaths including tulips, poppies, carnations, rose buds and other flowers on which are numerous insects including bees, dragonflies, grasshoppers, moths, beetle, caterpillar and snail flanked at each end by a beetle and moth and at each corner by floral posies. The top above a later gilt wrought iron support with pierced frieze above conjoined foliate legs joined by a shaped stretcher centred by a ring on stylised foliate feet
The top: Germany, date circa 1680-1700. The base: France, date circa 1940-50
Height 45.5 cm, length 119 cm, width 71 cm.
This magnificent work of art combines the skills of two great European masters spanning a period of about two and a half centuries. The top was made by Franz de Hamilton (b. circa 1630 d. circa 1710), who created a number of similar still-lifes composed of engraved mother-of-pearl on slate. A comparable inlaid flower composition, likewise signed with his initials, forms part of the wall decoration in the ‘Florentine Room’ at Schloss Favorite near Rastatt, the summer residence of Sybilla Augusta von Sachsen-Lauenberg (1675-1733), margravine of Baden Baden, (illustrated in “Oud Holland”, 1997, 111, no. 2, published by the Netherlands Institute for Art History, pl. 15.) Two other mother-of-pearl and slate plaques can be attributed to de Hamilton on the basis of their close similarity to the signed one at Schloss Favorite, illustrated ibid. pl.16, (one of a pair of plaques now in the Diozesanmuseum St. Afra, Augsburg). De Hamilton, who was born in Germany and worked in his native country as well as throughout Europe, was one of a number of skilled artists to work in engraved mother-of-pearl on a slate ground. Others from Germany included Jeremias Hercules (d. 1689) and Dirck van Rijswijck (1596-1679) (an example by the latter of an inlaid table top is illustrated in Reiner Baarsen, “Nederlandse Meublen 1600-1800, Dutch Furniture 1600-1800”, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, 1993, p. 37). This highly skilled technique was also widely employed by the Dutch, following on from their depictions of still-life paintings. Mother-of-pearl shells were imported into Amsterdam in large quantities and working them became a speciality of the city. Identified Dutch artists employing this technique on plaques include Jan Visscher (1633-after 1692) and Adriaen Brouwer (1605/1606-1638).
In addition to inlaid work on slate, de Hamilton was also known for his oil paintings with subjects ranging from floral still-lifes, scenes of birds, exotic beasts and insects as well as religious scenes and portrait paintings, such as one of Leopold I (1640-1705), Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire and his third wife Elenore Magdalena (1655-1720). Several of his works are housed in public collections including the museum at Hanover which owns two of his still-lifes, a study of an owl, a study of insects, a landscape scene, a scene of the Virgin with the infant Christ and another of a man and a girl. In addition the museum of Rotterdam houses another painting by him showing a nest in woodland.
Franz de Hamilton was possibly the son or brother of the Scottish born still-life painter James Hamilton (circa 1640-1720), who was the father of Philipp Ferdinand de Hamilton (b. circa 1664 d. 1750), Karl Wilhelm de Hamilton, called ‘Thistle-Hamilton’ (circa 1668-1754), and Johann Georg de Hamilton (1672-1737). Although born in Brussels, the latter three, like Franz de Hamilton worked as court painters in central Europe, where they specialized in animal and still-life pictures. In 1661 Franz was working at Clèves in the service of the Elector de Brandebourg. He also worked in Potsdam and after a period in Vienna was in 1675 attached to the court of the Landgrave de Hesse-Cassel and subsequently in 1687 to the Bavarian court.
The beauty of the top is matched by the gilt wrought iron support, which is attributed to the renowned French Art Deco designer and maître ferronier Gilbert Poillerat (1902-1988). Working primarily in the Art Deco style, Poillerat’s creations combined elements of Neo-Classicism and the Empire style. His creative designs and ingenious skill at working wrought iron and other materials resulted in a variety of works, from delicate candlesticks, sconces and lamps, to tables, chairs, grills and other more massive work. An innovator with creative finesse, Poillerat often combined materials such as crystal, wrought iron and lacquered wood to create unique works such as a pair of 1940’s mirrored obelisks, made for a Parisian hotel, built by Emile Aillaud and decorated by Etienne Kohlmann. He also worked with other craftsman notably with the decorator, furniture designer, architect and sculptor André Arbus (1903-69).
This technique of depicting still lifes in engraved mother-of-pearl on a slate ground would seem to have been employed widely by the Dutch, following on from their own depictions of still lifes in paintings. Mother-of-pearl shells were imported into Amsterdam in large quantities and working them became a specialty of the city. Identified Dutch artists employing this technique on plaques include Jan Visscher (1633-after 1692) and Adriaen Brouwer (1605/1606- 1638). However, mother-of-pearl plaques were also made by Germans, Jeremias Hercules (d. 1689), Dirck van Rijswijck (1596-1679) and Franz de Hamilton (active second half 17th century-early 18th century). The present lot is an exciting new addition to the mother-of-pearl oeuvre of De Hamilton. He not only worked with mother-of-pearl but was also a painter of still lifes and animal subjects. He was the author of a portrait of Leopold I (1640-1705), Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, and his third wife Elenore Magdalena (1655-1720) and also executed several still lives composed of mother-of-pearl on slate. One of his inlaid flower compositions with his initials F.D.H. is part of the wall decoration in the 'Florentine Room' at Schloss Favorite near Rastatt, the summer residence of Sybilla Augusta von Sachsen-Lauenberg (1675-1733), margravine of Baden Baden. Three other plaques are very similar to ours and are signed: the first one in the Diozesanmuseum St. Afra, Augsburg, the second one sold by Sotheby's London, 19 January 2016, lot 193 and the third one was recently on the art market.