A very rare small tureen from the Swan Service of Meissen porcelain that was destroyed at the end of the Second World War will be offered at Bonhams
auction of the Marouf Collection Part II on 2 May, where it is expected to fetch as much as £80,000. A single chocolate beaker and saucer from the same service, also from the Marouf collection, was sold at Bonhams last December for £55,000.
The service was commissioned in 1736 for Heinrich Graf von Brühl, the most powerful politician in Saxony during the early 18th Century, and comprised over 2,200 pieces. The service is all the more exceptional because it was one of the few large services to be made for a mere courtier Meissen was usually exclusively the preserve of the Saxon-Polish court. These masterpieces of 18th century art and technology stayed in the family for over two centuries.
In spring 1945, as the Soviet offensive pushed ever closer to Berlin, Pförten fell to the Russians. The ancestral home of the Von Brühls, Schloss Pförten, was looted by soldiers of the Red Army, who eventually found the locked room in the cellar of the castle, where the Swan Service was stored. The soldiers, who were drunk, tried to force the door, and when this failed, resorted to using grenades with predictable results. As one soldier recounts: "In a corner was the entrance to the basement...we started to destroy a lot of pieces and were throwing pieces of porcelain at each other. After all we didn't know how expensive it was..." The castle was burnt out and most of the remaining pieces of the service destroyed in the blaze.
Nette Megens, Director of European Porcelain at Bonhams said, "Pieces from the Swan Service are exceedingly rare, but a shaped piece such as this can be called quite unique. It is just one of the many treasures from the Marouf collection, which clearly underlines the importance of porcelain in diplomatic gift giving in the early 18th century."