JOHANN ANDREAS THELOT (or THELOTT)
(Augsburg, 1655 – 1734)

A Triumph

Signed, lower right: “I• A•THELOT”

Silver plaquette, oval
3 ¼ x 2 ¼  inches (8.3 x 5.7 cm)

With printed label verso: “Sammlung Figdor / I. Auktion Wien” and inscribed with lot number: 452.” And a second fragmentary label, “F. 25[…]” 
Together with its Figdor Collection box, blindstamped “Silberplaquette von Thelot.”

 

 

Provenance:   

Albert Figdor (1843-1927), Vienna; his sale, Vienna-Berlin, Artaria-Glückselig, Cassirer, June 11-13, 1930, lot 452, as “Augsburg, von J. A. Thelot”

Mathias Komor, New York, 1978; sold to:

Private Collection, Minneapolis, 1978-2018

 

Johann Andreas Thelot was the most prominent member of a family af Huguenot artists from in Dijon, active in Augsburg from 1585 on.  While he is also known as a draughtsman and engraver, his fame lies in his extraordinary works in silver, which has caused him to be called the “German Cellini.” [1]  He was the son and student of Israel Thelot (1616-1696), a master in the Augsburg guild of goldsmiths, and Johann himself became a master goldsmith in Augsburg following several years spent in Italy – a sojourn attested to by his relief panel Majestas and Amor of 1687 (Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum), inscribed “Roma.”

Thelot’s works in silver include various vessels, such as the Deckel-Portal goblet of 1689 (Augsburg, Städtische Kunstsammlungen); clocks (the casework for the clock by Franz Xavier Gegenreiner in the Metropolitan Museum); and plaquettes – for example,  The Baptism of Christ (London, Victoria & Albert Museum) and Cyrus Freeing the Jews (New York, Metropolitan Museum.  Such plaques and plaquettes may have been made as independent works of art or were intended to be incorporated into larger ensembles, furniture, or luxury objects with putative utilitarian purposes (clocks, tankards, goblets).

The present work has traditionally been considered to represent Apollo in his chariot, but several details in the representation are unusual.  First the chariot is drawn by two lions, their reins held by a putto, whereas Apollo’s chariot is most often depicted as being drawn across the sky by horses –customarily, four, a quadriga --with Apollo in full control.  And while the figure of Apollo does appear in traditional fashion –with a band across his bare chest holding a quiver, a lyre held on his knee with his right hand— he is rarely shown as he is here with wings.  These details are so explicit as to suggest that another theme is here represented – most like a triumph of a concept or virtue, such as Fame.

Thelot’s magnificent craftsmanship combines both two-dimensional description and three-dimensional modeling – utilizing high relief and chasing to create a unified space in miniature.  To make such a work, the design would have been pricked out on the surface of a flat sheet of silver, then the sheet turned over and the basic pattern hammered from the back.  Then fine detail would be carried out from the front, employing a variety of punches and hammers.

The present work comes from the celebrated collection of the Viennese banker Albert Figdor, whose unparalleled collection of sculpture and decorative art was sold at auction in 1930. 

 

[1] W. L. Hildburgh, “Two Silver Reliefs by Johann Andreas Thelot,” Burlington Magazine Vol. 86, No. 506 (May, 1945), p. 121