Turners of the Early Modern Period in Austria


Portrait of Rudolf I by Anton Boys

Rudolf I, also known as Rudolf of Habsburg was Count of Habsburg from about 1240 and King of Germany from 1273 until his death.

In a Baroque poem of praise of 1683, King Rudolf I is mentioned as having "worked (at this art) so that things he turned can still be seen." This reference to a 13th century individual producing lathe art is one of the earliest known.

Albert IV of Austria by Anton Boys

Albert was the Duke of Austria from 1395 until 1404. He was known to have turned at the lathe.

Lathe of Maximillian I, circa 1500-1518.

As early as 1503, Emperor Maximilian I had a room in the Hofburg at Innsbruck with a turning lathe. A second machine was obtained from Tramin in 1503.

One of the emperor's lathes (seen in the photo) is presumed to have been made in Sterzing around 1500-1518, and is perhaps the oldest existing physical evidence that nobility turned.

Portrait of Rudolf II by Hans von Aachen.

Rudolf II was Holy Roman Emperor (1576–1612), King of Hungary and Croatia (1572–1608), King of Bohemia (1575–1608/1611) and Archduke of Austria (1576–1608). He was a member of the House of Habsburg. His legacy has been viewed in three ways: an ineffectual ruler whose mistakes led directly to the Thirty Years' War; a great and influential patron of Northern Mannerist art; and an intellectual devotee of occult arts and learning which helped seed what would be called the scientific revolution.

Rudolf II was patron to some of the best contemporary artists and went far beyond paintings and sculptures. He hosted many alchemists, artisans, and occult pihilophers at his castle in Prague. He commissioned decorative objects of all kinds and in particular mechanical moving devices. Ceremonial swords and musical instruments, clocks, water works, astrolabes, compasses, telescopes and other scientific instruments were all produced for him by some of the best craftsmen in Europe.

By 1597, the collection occupied three rooms of the incomplete northern wing. When building was completed in 1605, the collection was moved to the dedicated Kunstkammer. It was not a typical "cabinet of curiosities" – a haphazard collection of unrelated specimens. Rather, the Rudolfine Kunstkammer was systematically arranged in an encyclopaedic fashion. As was customary at the time, the collection was private, but friends of the Emperor, artists, and professional scholars were allowed to study it. The collection became an invaluable research tool during the flowering of 17th-century European philosophy, the "Age of Reason."

The "pharmacy" box assembled, by Hans Wecker, 1610.

In 1599, Rudolf II had a turning chamber furnished in the castle in Prague by George Wecker, a turner at the Saxon court whose son Hans later became the court turner there as well. The turner Peter Zick (the elder) was also called to Prague and the Emperor "took advantage of his instruction in artistic turning for a fairly long time" (according to Nuremberg historiographer Doppelmayr in 1730).

Multipart box containing miniature "pharmacy" by Hans Wecker, 1610.

Numerous turned ivory pieces are mentioned in the inventory of Emperor Rudolf's art cabinet, dating from 1607-1611. They include a box serving as a "pharmacy" by his turner Hans Wecker, made in 1610 and still in existence. An inventory of the art cabinet taken in 1621 notes 82 pieces of turned ivory on an upper shelf and 36 ivory vessels on a lower shelf.

Portrait of Ferdinand III by Jan van den Hoecke, c. 1643

Ferdinand III ascended the throne at the beginning of the last decade of the Thirty Years' War and introduced lenient policies to depart from old ideas of divine rights under his father, Emperor Ferdinand II of Habsburg, as he had wished to end the war quickly.

Both Lorenz Zick (court turner from 1642 to 1644) and Martin Teuber instructed Emperor Ferdinand III in turning. He was also a well-known patron of music and a composer. (Some of Ferdinand's own compositions survive in manuscripts: masses, motets, hymns and other sacred music, as well as a few secular pieces.)

Ivory turning attributed to the Zick workshop (17th c.)

Peter, the son of turner Martin Zick had three sons – Peter, Lorenz, and Christoph – who all learned the turning craft. It was principally the work of the Zick family that made Nuremberg one of the three main centers of ivory turning in the region (along with Regensburg and Dresden).

Peter was the court turner for Emperor Rudolf II in Prague. He was one of the originators of the turned hollow sphere and was also famous for his ivory drinking vessels. Several examples survive in museums today.

Ivory contrefait, attributed to the workshop of Lorenz Zick, ca. 1640 (H. 13-3/8" with top spire missing in photo). Private collection. Image courtesy Sotheby's.

Lorenz, the son of the turner Peter Zick, and grandson of the turner Martin Zick, was the most accomplished of the three brothers who all took up the family craft. Lorenz worked for the Duke in Weimar in 1613 and in Halle as court turner of the Duchy of Magdeburg in 1616. He was called to Vienna from 1642 to 1644 to instruct Emperor Ferdinand III and was appointed Kammerdrechsler of the imperial court.

His oval, crosswise, twisting, waved and studded ivory goblets were thought to be imitations of the works of goldsmiths. He also turned hollow spheres. Lorenz's outstanding skill is demonstrated in a specialized form of the relief medallion: inscribed plates, the letters on which have been turned on the lathe. This technique was probably developed in the Zick workshop.

Photo details: From Sotheby's description:
"The present contrefait features an internally-turned hinged circular box with a two pairs of strings attached to the open side of the box and threaded through either side of the sphere; this mechanism allows the viewer to open and close the internal compartment in which are contained tiny paintings. An engraving accompanying Doppelmayer's Historisches Nachricht of 1730 describes a contrefait of similar form with the same internal circular hinged box and opening mechanism by Lorenz Zick (Maurice 1985, p. 111, no. 119). Almost identical to the present lot is a sphere on a spiralling stem is in the Bayerisches Nationalmuseum in Munich (Maurice 1985, p. 84, no. 97). A similar contrefait with a double-eagle finial and a Unicorn reclining at the base, attributed to the Zick workshop, is in the treasury of the Basilica at Mariazell (Phillipovich 1965, p. 302, no. 229). Another of very similar form, containing a portrait of Empress Maria Theresia, is in the Kremsmünster monastery collection (op. cit., p. 303, no. 230)."

Standing cup by Lorenz or Stephen Zick (17th c.) turned ivory, H. 14 in. Image courtesy The Met.

Stephan was the son of Lonrez Zick and another distinguished member of the artistic family.

Other members whose names are recorded from the workshop included Lorenz's brothers, Peter Zick II (1596- after 1652) and Christoph Zick (1599-1665); three of his nephews, Johannes Zick (b. 1627) and David Zick I (1628- after 1652), the sons of Peter II, and Caspar Zick I (1623-1682), the son of Christoph; and his great-nephew, Caspar Zick II (1650-1731).

Anatomical model of an eye, late 17th century. (Courtesy Bonhams)

Stephan also produced anatomical models. As with Johann Martin Teuber, they were influenced by the anatomical drawings of Andrea Vesalius in the mid 16th century and later George Bartisch who produced a manuscript relating to the eye in 1583.

Lidded tankard by future Emperor Leopold I, 1654 (H. 9.125in.) (Courtesy Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna)

Leopold I created various lathe-turned ivory pieces. He is known to have turned the body of a lidded tankard when he was only fourteen (pictured here). It is assumed that the tankard's carved handle was not the work of the young Leopold but of his teacher Lorenz Zick, who was skilled as both a carver and turner.

Leopold's early familiarity with ivory turning enabled him to later become a knowledgeable collector of ivory art as emperor. During his residency, Vienna became the most important ivory-working center in Europe, partly because Leopold added a court artist exclusively responsible for ivory carving.

An elaborate oval covered cup preserved in the Rosenborg Castle in Copenhagen is also attributed to Leopold I.

Portrait of Martin Teuber, 1740.

Teuber instructed Emperor Ferdinand III in turning. He was in Regensburg around the year 1654. His grandson, Johann Martin, reported in 1740 that his grandfather Martin was one of the first to turn hollow spheres.

Frontispiece engraving depicting three generations of Teuber turners, from Johann Martin Teuber's book Complete Instruction, 1740. View book online

Son of Martin Teuber also learned the craft. One of his pieces is in the collection of the Museum of the City of Regensburg.

Patterns from Teuber's book Complete Instruction, 1740.

The youngest of three generations of turners, Johann Martin Teuber was an ornamental turner, author, teacher and toolmaker. He is known to have made a lathe for Ernest Louis (of Darmstadt Palace) whose turning chamber dates from around 1700.

He provided instruction in turning as well, including Lorenz Spengler (of Denmark) from 1734 to 1739, as well as Johann Michael Hahn (also of Denmark). In addition to his ornamental turning, Johann produced life-like anatomical models.

Ivory box by Johann Martin Teuber, circa 1750. (Courtesy Hampel)

He published what was perhaps the first book on turning written by a proficient turner entitled, Short Instruction in the Art of Turning (Regensburg, 1730) under the pseudonym Christian Drexel/Drexelius. In it he affirms "that no one but God himself is the creator of the noble art of turning and the very first turner." In another passage he states one virtue of turning is that "it clears a man's mind and sharpens his genius."

Ivory box by Johann Martin Teuber, circa 1750. (Courtesy Hampel)

In 1740 he published Complete Instruction in the Common and High Art of Turning, including 31 Plates depicting 40 illustrations of ornamental lathes, parts, tools and an early form of the sliderest. View book online

Teuber was known as "the turner with the silver hand" because he blew off his hand loading a gun and the emperor paid to have a silver prothesis made for him.

Portrait of Leopold, Duke of Lorraine

Leopold was Duke of Lorraine and Bar from 1690 until his death. He is the ancestor of all rulers of the Habsburg-Lorraine dynasty, including all Emperors of Austria.

An ivory objet d'art with the coat-of-arms of Duke Leopold of Lorraine, from around 1700, survives in a private collection.

Portrait of Charles Alexander of Lorraine

Prince Charles Alexander of Lorraine was a Lorraine-born Austrian general and soldier, field marshal of the Imperial Army, and governor of the Austrian Netherlands.

Charles was an enthusiastic turner whose "laboratory" in his Brussels residence included several lathes, as documented by his inventory. A rose engine lathe bearing the coat-of-arms of Prince Charles Alexander of Lorraine is currently in a museum collection in Washington, D.C. Another rose engine, made by Joh. A. Schega in Vienna, 1767, was a gift from Prince Charles Alexander to Joachim Chalon, France, around 1750-1775. It is currently privately owned.

The basis of Holtzapffel No. 2219

Otto Franz Joseph Karl Ludwig Maria was Prince Imperial and Archduke of Austria, and Prince Royal of Hungary and Bohemia.

He received Holtzapffel lathe No. 2219 as a gift from Queen Victoria of England in 1886. The lathe cost the Queen £160 and has the distinction of being one of the most complete ornamental turning outfits in existence, including a compound spherical sliderest and geometric chuck.

How much useful knowledge is lost by the scattered forms in which it is ushered into the world! How many solitary students spend half their lives in making discoveries which have been perfected a century before their time, for want of a condensed exhibition of what is known!

Georges Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon (1707 - 1788)