Portrait of a reformer

Rare glass intaglio of Frederick William III by Calandrelli, c. 1840

"Not to the purple, not to the crown ...he gives vain precedence. He is the citizen on the throne, ...and his pride is to be a man." Thus did Karl Alexander Herklots poem on Frederick William III, who had been crowned King of Prussia a year earlier. Like few other kings of Prussia, Frederick William was a man of reform and progress, although the times were not always kind to his reign. During his reign from 1797 to 1840, his homeland saw subjugation to Napoleon and great economic hardship; he himself even had to flee Berlin with his beloved and popularly adored wife Luise to escape French troops. But in the tradition of Frederick the Great, and under the pressure of the times, he finally transformed the absolutist state into a modern enlightened kingship. With the help of Baron vom Stein, the king completed the Prussian civil service state, released the peasants from serfdom, put the Jews in Prussia on an equal legal footing with Christians, and, not least, promoted the education system by founding Berlin University. The economy also flourished again at the end of his life: the beginning of Prussia's industrialization, which was later to gain rapid momentum, can be explained by the first reforms under his rule. No wonder then that Frederick William III, no less than Queen Luise, was held in high veneration in Prussia as well as abroad. A wonderful proof of this popular veneration is now before us, in the form of a portrait of the king as a brooch. We see the face of the king in profile to the left. The curly hair, the long sideburns and also the narrow moustache distinguish the face of the king. The intaglio, made of red transparent glass, is signed on the side and marked as the work of Giovanni Calandrelli (1784-1853), an Italian gem-cutter who lived in Berlin. Calandrelli, who worked among others for the Polish Prince Poniatowski, was one of the most outstanding engravers of his time. However, a permanent position eluded him and he struggled with money problems throughout his life. Less expensive works such as this intaglio in glass may therefore have served to attract a wider clientele for his work. It was not until his son Alexander that he became a professor of sculpture and worked successfully on behalf of the Prussian crown, including the equestrian statue of Wilhelm IV in front of the old National Gallery. The model for the intaglio was apparently the portrait of the king in his old age, which is widely used on coins and medals. We reproduce a medal from 1840, which was issued on the occasion of the king's death. The intaglio was probably created in the same years. The reddish gold setting, which makes the glass into a brooch, was probably created a generation later, in the years around 1870. Cf. on Calandrelli et al. L'antica maniera. Zeichnungen und Gemmen des Giovanni Calandrelli in der Antikensammlung Berlin, edited by Gertrud Platz-Horster, Cologne 2005, plate 12, p. 97, VI 18.

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We want you to be 100% satisfied! That’s why we examine, describe and photograph all our jewellery with the utmost care.

If for any reason you are still not satisfied, contact us and we will find a mutual solution immediately. Regardless, you can return any item within 30 days and we will refund you the full purchase price.

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