Viennese enamel

With a long history of the decorative arts industry, the Austrian capital of Vienna became a key centre of decorative enamelling in the second half of the Nineteenth Century. Major workshops by well-known silversmiths such as Bohm and Ratzersdorfer created elaborate confections in the ‘Ringstrasse’ taste, catering primarily to a burgeoning affluent clientèle and made largely for export.

Ornate display and novelty objects decorated with enamel proved ideal accents for the nineteenth century drawing room, particularly as table centrepieces or ‘Nefs’. Their subtle shadings with occasional eye-popping bursts of brilliant colour provided the perfect complement to similarly hued furnishings and wall hangings.

“Many works copied Renaissance designs, featuring rock crystal and lapis lazuli and illustrations and decorations drawing on classical mythology.” The rich painterly effects employed on Viennese enamels and drawn from the Rococco painters of the era, conformed to the contemporary Viennese taste for opulence. Whilst nefs were among the most dramatic of Viennese enamels, there was also demand for a myriad of other enamelled objects including lidded tankards, fanciful mantlepiece clocks, drinking horns, ewers and tazzas.

In the late Nineteenth Century and onwards, such was the popularity of Viennese enamels, the process of enamelling was taught in the Academy School of Art Craftsmanship which was connected to the Museum of Vienna under the patronage of Baron Felicien von Myrbach.