The Toilette Service, German, Augsburg, 1767-73
This spectacular silver-gilt toilette service is one of the largest surviving services made at Augsburg in the eighteenth century. Although stylistically coherent, it was made by at least nine different silversmiths within a few years. We know their names and dates because almost each piece is marked with the maker’s mark and the Augsburg hallmark with a letter indicating a specific year. Augsburg was one of the leading centres of silversmithing in Europe and was renowned for the high quality of objects produced there, including extensive silver table services and toilet sets. The bold decoration of this service is in the mature German Rococo style, with C-scrolls, foliage, fruit and exotic birds embossed and chased onto the plate.
The service consists of fifty-five pieces, not only for the toilet, such as the mirror, ewer and basin, various containers and the wig-powder whisk but also for the breakfast meal – with its coffee- and tea-pots, milk jug, cups and cutlery. It also includes two candlesticks and the inkstand with a bell for ringing a servant. All these objects were used during the morning ceremony of preparing for the day, the levée, which often took a long time and was very elaborate. This daily ritual played an important role in courtly etiquette and was performed by wealthy members of society in their bedchambers of dressing-rooms while receiving their favoured guests. Assisted by hairdressers and servants, the aristocrats washed their face and hands, had their hair arranged and powdered and applied cosmetics and perfumes. At the same time they could enjoy refreshments, write letters and have conversations with their visitors.
Toilet services were seen as statements of wealth and high position and in course of the eighteenth-century they became increasingly complex and costly. They were often given as luxury presents. We do not know for whom this service was made but judging by its quality and scale, it must have been a person of high rank.
The service is well preserved and we even have its original travel case. Not normally displayed, the box will be shown during the talks.
Tuesday 5 and 26 September at 1 pm with Ada de Wit, Assistant Curator.