Silver samovar from Mechelen

Joseph Van Deuren

This 18th century silver samovar, made in Mechelen, is an absolute masterpiece. It was acquired by the Comte Thierry de Looz-Corswarem Fund and is a rare example of silverware in the Transitional style. It is now part of the collection of the Art & History Museum in Brussels.

A ceremonial samovar

This spectacular and surprising samovar in solid silver was made by the Mechelen silversmith Joseph Van Deuren in 1775. Weighing around 7 kilogrammes and 59 centimetres high, the samovar is above all a ceremonial object that reflects the outstanding talent of a craftsman as well as the wealth of the family that owned it. Its rarity, exceptional character, great technical quality and sumptuous decoration, as well as its early typology, make it a masterpiece worthy of inclusion in the silver collection of the Brussels Art & History museum.

Unique and fashionable ornamentation

The ornamentation of this samovar is in Transitional style, a short stylistic period that brought the exuberance of Rococo to the clean lines of the Louis XVI period. Silversmith Joseph Van Deuren was just 30 years-old when he made the samovar, but he exhibited spectacular talent and dexterity in the cast, embossed, applied and chiselled aspects of this work, undoubtedly fulfilling the requirements of his wealthy client’s commission.
Topped with a handle in the form of a swan, the samovar’s ornamentation is as eclectic as it is abundant, with garlands of flowers and foliage, acanthus leaves, friezes of rosettes alternating with beaded rows and mascarons. Medallions of historical figures, typical of decoration in the period, sit alongside Egyptian motifs on the handles at the side of the samovar, elements that were completely new at the end of the 18th century. This is a rare example of silverware from the Transition period, as well as an early example of Egyptomania, which was to take hold on design in the early 19th century together with the Empire style.

Historical context

At this time, Mechelen was the judicial capital of the Southern Netherlands and the seat of an archbishopric. The city held strategic economic importance and was home to a number of noble families and wealthy civil servants. Such people constituted a wealthy clientele eager to commission imposing pieces of silverware such as those made by Joseph Van Deuren and his competitor, Joannes Cornelius Hendrickx. Pieces by both of these craftsmen are kept at the Museum of Art & History in Brussels.

A well-traced pedigree

This treasure, undocumented and unlisted, remained in the same family from the 18th century. Most likely to have been used on the occasion of marriages, the samovar is the most impressive work by Joseph Van Deuren known to date. Exhibited together with work from the same workshop and that of Joannes Cornelius Hendrick, the samovar is one of the highpoints for the new 18th century department initiated by the museum.

The Comte Thierry de Looz-Corswarem Fund

The Comte Thierry de Looz-Corswarem Fund, managed by the King Baudouin Foundation, has as its mission to protect Belgian cultural moveable heritage for the benefit of public collections. As such, the Fund aims in particular to acquire masterpieces of art and significant works and documents from Belgium’s past dating from the period between 1550 and 1850.

Material / technique: 
Embossed silver, Mechelen hallmark, Camberlyn coat of arms engraved on the foot
Height 59 cm, weight 7 kg
Type of acquisition: 
Acquired by the Comte Thierry de Looz-Corswarem Fund
Year of acquisition: 
Depository institution: 
Art & History Museum, Brussels