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Auction Date: April 24, 2015

Lot 1418: Historic Chest Decorated with Finely Inlaid S

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Historic Chest Decorated with Finely Inlaid Scenes from Richard Wagner's Opera Siegfried with a Presentation Plaque Marking It as a Gift from Wagner's Family to Adolf Hitler in 1939
Estimated Price: $25,000 - $40,000
Item Views 124 Bid Activity Average
Serial #Historic Chest Decorated with Finely Inlaid S ManufacturerNone ModelNone
TypeOther Gauge Catalog Page151
Barrel Finish Grip
Stock ClassOther RatingSee Condition
DescriptionMeasuring 12 1/8 inches wide, 8 inches tall and 8 7/8 inches deep, the overall construction of the case is brass, with the lid, handle and sides all decorated with wooden inlays, chiefly of a geometric or leafy style. The handle on top is shaped to resemble a pair of round towers joined by a curtain wall, including the aforementioned wood inlay even in the curves,, topped with a set of 7 purple-hued crystals, and set onto a cut through leafy vine decorated brass panel with a small cat's eye agate on each corner. On the sides of the case, the decoration goes from attractive to flat-out impressive, with the rectangular flats covered with dynamic scenes from the opera "Siegfried" by Richard Wagner, the third part of his four-opera Ring Cycle, rendered in engraved brass with extensive wood inlay to create depth and background. Viewing the case from the front, the panels go in counter-clockwise sequence starting on the left, with the youth Siegfried, grandson of Odin Allfather and foster child of the dwarf Mimir, reforging Nothung, the sword of his father in anticipation of battle with the dragon Fafnir. On the front we see the battle itself, with Fafnir occupying fully two-thirds of the face of the chest, and the final third featuring Siegfried preparing to strike with Nothung. On the right, the youth rests after the battle and observes a singing bird; having gained the power to understand bird song from accidentally consuming Fafnir's blood, Siegfried is advised by the bird on what to take from the dragon's hoard, as well as the location of a sleeping maiden protected by a ring of fire. On the back is the finale of the opera, with Siegfried having passed through the ring discovered the former valkyrie Brunhilde, and preparing to awaken her, an innocent act that will eventually result in the destruction of the Norse gods during the last opera in the cycle. The interior is lined with fine green velvet, and while noting is currently included the impressions in the waft suggest stationary and writing implements. Inside the lid is a brass plaque, engraved with swastika designs around the border, the face of a valkyrie in the lower right quadrant, and the inscription "FUR UNSEREM FUHRER UND REICHKANZLER ADOLF HITLER/IN DANKBARER ERINNERUNG AN DEN BESUCH 1939 IM/HAUS WAHNFRIED/EIN KLEINES GESCHENK/ FAMILIE WAGNER", which translates "For our Leader and Reichs Chancellor Adolf Hitler, in grateful memory of his visit in 1939 to Haus Wahnfried, a small gift, from the Wagner Family". Haus Wahnfried was the family home built for Wagner as part of the construction program responsible for the Bayerth Festival Theater, where Wagner would premier the operas of his Ring Cycle. Wagner had many fans and followers in Europe, even well after his passing in 1883, of which Hitler was one of the most famous. Reading a variety of pro-National Socialist elements into the composer's work, he was a patron in their continued performances. In turn, historians speculate how much influence Wagner had on Hitler, especially in the last days of the Third Reich; the Ring Cycle in particular ends with the aforementioned Brunhilde willfully lighting her own funeral pyre to trigger Ragnarok, the grand apocalyptic event of proto-Germanic mythology, while Hitler fully expected Nazi Germany to burn itself to the ground fighting off the Soviets, expending all resources and engaging the enemy down to the last man, including what became known as the Nero Decree in 1945, the order to quite literally destroy everything of possible value to the Allies.

ConditionFine. With the exception of a single piece of wood absent from Fafnir's mouth and a tiny amount of play in 2 of the stones on the handle, the decoration is solid overall, smoothly fitted to the brass and showing fine grain and color overall. The brass is well aged, with a few scattered spots and handling marks overall. The interior has been relined at some later date. A unique combination of the metalworker's and woodworker's arts, with connections to prominent figures of Europe's cultural and military history.
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