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A pair of exceptional, carved, ivory panels after the panels in the Maximillian I Coin Cabinet by Christof Angermair in the Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlung



Dates
1860
Description / Expertise
LHS inside door of cabinet, upper vignette : possibly depicting Nomios' who was a shepherd, seducer of nymphs, and musician upon the shepherd's pipes. Most of the mythological stories about Pan are actually about Nomios, not the god Pan.
Here he sits in a forest attracting many different types of animal with his sweet music. The extraordinary depth of the carving is illustrated by the almost transculent quality of the town in the background as the ivory surface here is so thin. Compare to the depth of the leaves and Nomios.

LHS inside door of cabinet, lower vignette : This shows Nike, the Greek goddess of victory engraving the word ‘Victoria’ onto a panel while in the background we see soldiers marching celebrating a recent victory as evidenced by the trophies they carry. Again the background behind the tunic on a stake has a translucent quality to it as the ivory is so thin due to the depth of the carving, again compare to Nike.

LHS door, main vignette, Pan is depicted on the bottom right playing his pipes amongst a group of male figures, each playing a different instrument Pan is the god of the wild, shepherds and flocks, nature of mountain wilds, hunting and rustic music, and companion of the nymphs. He has the hindquarters, legs, and horns of a goat, in the same manner as a faun or satyr. He is recognized as the god of fields, groves, and wooded glens and connected to fertility and the season of spring. The cherub handing over a posy also symbolizes fertility as does the rabbit. This vignette is carved within an oval cartouche supported by masks and amorini. The depth of the carving is illustrated by the translucent quality of the farm and workers in the fields in the centre, in comparison to the players in the foreground.

RHS door panel, the top right vignette appears to mirror Nomios on the left, shown as a solitary figure playing the violin in nature but surrounded by a more exotic group of animals including a lion, an elephant and a camel suggesting a more idyllic setting. Again look at the contrast between the depth of the carving of Nomios and the hares in the centre.

The bottom scene on this right panel appears to refer to Rome with the founding Romulus and Remus as young boys suckling a she-wolf and under the imposing gaze of a strong bearded male figure, probably Mars, who was thought to be their father. A large group of people are bringing gifts and a sacrifice of a cow is taking place.

The main vignette on the right hand side panel depicts the nine Muses, who personify knowledge and the arts, notably literature, dance and music. They were the nine daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne and were considered the source of the knowledge, related orally for centuries in the ancient culture that was contained in poetic lyrics and myths. Here they are heralded by the cherub above playing his trumpet and within an oval cartouche supported by amorini and masks.

PANEL DIMENSIONS :
Height : 238mm, Width : 82 mm, Depth : 8mm at greatest and carved back to virtually nothing in parts

PROVENANCE : Private Collection, Scotland

These panels were most likely executed in the 19th century, after Christoph Angermair’s famous coin cabinet for the Elector Maximilian I. of Bavaria. This was made between 1618-24 and since then thoroughly and uninterruptedly recorded in inventories of the electoral, later royal collections in Munich until it entered the Bayerisches Nationalmuseum in 1874 (full details and images of this extraordinary artwork can be found below). A copy of the entire original Angermair cabinet, probably executed in the late 19th century, is in the collection of the Louvre in Paris (see image below).

These panels were carved after the inside of the two doors of the Angemair cabinet and are true to the original to such extent that it is almost certain the artist had access to the original cabinet. This is a very plausible scenario as the Angermair cabinet went on public display in the 19th century.

The main theme of these panels is music, the subject of the larger scenes, but history, antiquity and power also have a strong presence. Each panel has a larger vignette in the centre between a top and a bottom smaller vignette.

The musical theme of the panels is set against this exaltation of victory and power throughout the ages (there are references to Babylon and to Antiquity). The celebration of power is further reinforced when considered in relation to the Angermair cabinet that is crowned with an equestrian statuette of an Imperator as victorious over four kings.

The different scenes in the panels are set in a neoclassical frame that contains each vignette so as to clearly separate them from each other. These frames are decorated with cherubs holding garlands of flowers.

In terms of style, these panels recreate the Angermair scenes faithfully although with a greater emphasis on depth and volume and as a result they appear more three dimensional, showing the skill of the artist. In each vignette the ivory is carved so deeply that it appears translucent in the central parts as the ivory is so thin yet the artist manages to carve this also.

The strong pathos and the individuality that are evident in Angermair’s characters are replaced in these panels with more generic neutral expressions, probably a result of the artist working from an original and therefore needing to be less emotionally invested in creating the work.

These panels are an excellent example not just of technical virtuosity but also of the continuing appeal of precious objects created in a particularly significant historical context. Although we do not know the circumstances of the production of these panels, they are likely to have been a commission by a patron familiar with the history of the Angermair cabinet and its reputation, perhaps as a gift that was to be imbued with the layers of meaning that the Angermair cabinet evokes.






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Medium
ivory
Origin
German
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