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Goldsmith’s Art

Oval box

Key data

Johann Ulrich Fechter 11, Basle, ca. 1720

Silver, embossed, cast, chased, punched, parcel gilt

height 7.4 cm, width 9.3 cm, length 11.5 cm

Inv. 1991.256.


The gilded box stands on a protruding wavy edged rim that is repeated on the lid. The embossed sides are patterned with interwoven bands interspersed with flowers against a punched ground. The focus of the box is the relief on the lid framed by an engrailed and gadrooned rim. The representation of Abraham and the three angels (Genesis 18) was based on an etching by Matthäus Merian the Elder (1593-1650) in the so called Merian Bible (1625, reprint 1704). The goldsmith, however, made very free use of the century old model and his late Baroque interpretation has the character of an elegant genre scene. He made skilful use of all levels of relief, working from the finest of punching in the cloudy sky through to the almost fully three dimensional figures worked k jour in the foreground. Johann Ulrich Fechter II was one of the most important Basle goldsmiths of the C18, but his works scarcely ever achieved the virtuosity of this relief, and the question arises whether it could have been produced in collaboration with another artist.

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