Jewelry cabinet

Modern History
walnut wood, gilded copper, bronze
molding, casting, intarsia, varnished
H = 143 cm; L = 75 cm; W = 52 cm

    Jewelry cabinet. A royal gift for the silver wedding anniversary of Carol I and Elisabeth (1894)

    Text: Alexandra Mărășoiu; photo: Marius Amarie

    Thursday, the 3rd/15th of November 1894, was a day of festivity in Romania. On that day, King Carol and Queen Elisabeth solemnly celebrated 25 years of marriage. The event, solemnly celebrated, prompted the temporary relinquishment of the mourning period which was instituted following the death of Tsar Alexander II of Russia (October 20th/November 1st), the maternal uncle of Princess Maria, wife to the heir Prince, Ferdinand. Neither Ferdinand, who left for St. Petersburg to attend the Tsar’s funeral, nor Princess Maria, who was still recuperating after the birth of Princess Elisabeth (October12th/24th), attended the celebrations. 

    In the morning of November 3rd/15th, the Royal pair took part in a Te-Deum held at the Metropolitan Church by the Metropolitan Primate Bishop Calinic Miclescu, in the presence of State officials and members of the diplomatic corps. After the church service, Carol and Elizabeth signed an act noting the year of their marriage, the date of their arrival in the country’s capital and the year of their silver wedding anniversary. In the afternoon, in the Throne room, the King and Queen received congratulations from the high clergy, the Prime Minister Lascăr Catargiu, the presidents of the legislative bodies and the High Court of Cassation and Justice, foreign diplomats, the President of the Academy, Dimitrie Sturza, the Rector of Bucharest University, Titu Maiorescu, the Mayor and members of the capital City Council, etc. A reception at close quarters was organized in the evening, following which Carol and Elizabeth took a carriage ride through Bucharest in the enthusiastic cheers of the public who had gathered in large numbers to admire them. 

    The gifts received on this occasion included “a walnut piece of furniture with drawers, marquetry and beautiful golden brass inlays, the family coat of arms and chiseled bronze ornaments”, sent to the Romanian Royal couple by Princess Josephine of Hohenzollern, mother of King Carol I, and his eldest brother, Leopold of Hohenzollern. The item in question is a cabinet currently in the patrimony of the National Museum of Romanian History. Crafted in Germany, in the Paul Stotz workshops in Stuttgart, the cabinet is a combination of Spanish neo-Renaissance and French Baroque, which artistically falls under the eclectic style. 

    Typologically speaking, it is a “vargueño”, namely a type of writing table characteristic to the Spanish Renaissance (the 15th – 16th centuries), which was comprised of a cabinet or, as it is the case here, a console on which a chest with a folding front panel rested on, which served both as a door and a writing surface – when folded down – while the interior was divided into small drawers. “Vargueño” cabinets could be used not only for writing and storing correspondence, but also for securing important documents, jewelry or other valuables. 

    The upper part of the cabinet that once belonged to King Carol and Queen Elizabeth is decorated with brass intarsia that mimics the style pioneered in the 17th century by the Frenchman André-Charles Boulle, a preeminent cabinet maker of the French baroque. The rear surface has a simpler décor, while the others exhibit elaborate vegetal motifs, accompanied by Hermes heads on the exterior surface and dragon heads on the lateral ones. The chest also showcases bronze mountings in the corners and the center of the top and bottom sides of the front and back surfaces. The massive bronze lock takes the shape of a Hermes head in the upper side, while bronze ornaments were applied to the lateral sides, depicting winged female dragons which originate in the Catalan mythology, where they are known as Vibria (from “viper” = snake). The exterior of the drawers is, in turn, lavishly inlaid.

    The upper part of the console and its frontal legs are decorated with metal intarsia and bronze embellishments. A metallic cartouche on the front surface of the console contains the following inscription: “MDCCCXCIX – MDCCCXCIV. TREUE ERINNERUNG IN FREUD UND LEID. NEUES GLÜCK MIT GOTTES SEGEN” (”1869 – 1894. A loyal memento in weal and woe. New fortunes with God’s blessing”). On the back, parallel to this, another plate has the following engraving: “Gestiftet von J und L” (“Gifted by J and L” – the initials of Josephine and Leopold of Hohenzollern). The front legs of the console have the years “1869” (left) and “1894” (right) engraved on the upper parts and are connected by a stretcher with festoons on which the monogram of the Royal family is depicted on a metallic cartouche (an imbricated “C” and an “E” with a superjacent crown).

    On the interior of the folding door, on the upper side, there is a metal plate that reads: “Entwurf & Ausführung. Paul Stotz. Intarsien V. Ed. Kieser Stuttgart” (Design and manufacture. Paul Stotz. Intarsia V. Ed. Kieser Stuttgart). Paul Stotz (1850-1899) was a German artist, bronze sculptor, as well as a bronze and copper casting specialist. In 1876, he established a department within the iron foundry set up by his father in 1860 in Stuttgart, where ornamental bronze objects (statues, pieces of furniture and furniture decorations, lamps and chandeliers, tomb ornaments) were manufactured. Six years later, the department was transformed into a stand-alone workshop, with its own headquarters, which operated until 1932. Paul Stotz was a supplier of the Romanian Royal House. Among other things, he sculpted the bronze fountain in the inner courtyard of The Peleş Castle. E. the Kieser was a German bronze sculptor and intarsia artist who worked in Paul Stotz’s studio. 

    Other gifts for the silver wedding anniversary

    The King and Queen arrived in Bucharest from Sinaia on the eve of their silver wedding anniversary, on the 2nd/14th of November. In the afternoon they received those who wanted to offer them gifts, which had already been brought and placed in a hall of the Palace. The gifts list, published in “The Official Gazette” on the 5th/7th of November 1894, mentions: a silver fruit platter and a golden silver pitcher with tray (from The King’s Civil and Military Staff), a secretary desk manufactured in silver and ivory, (from the Romanian ladies), two ivory vases with golden ornaments (on behalf of the city hall), a marble statue depicting The Creating Spirit, the work of the French sculptor A. Boucher (from the Queen’s ladies-in-waiting), a white atlas pillow with silk and silver thread (from Zoe D. Sturdza), a flower bouquet (from the Lady Elisabeth Society), a fabric upholstered walnut armchair (from the Furnica Society, a decorative dividing screen made of atlas (from Munca Society), Elisabeth Commemorative Cross regalia (from the Reserve Officers Club), the portraits of Elisabeth and Carol in 1869 and 1894 in a leather cover (from Mr. and Mrs. Szeculici), a gratulatory address bound in velvet (from the Romanian consuls in Germany), an album with velvet covers and a silver cigarette case with the scene of Carol meeting Osman Pasha following the taking of Plevna engraved on the lid (Marinescu Bragadiru couple), a painted white leather case with silver and enamel ornaments (Mrs. Socec), an embroidered pillow (Mrs. G. Romniceanu), a cameo necklace (D. Theodor Lerescu), a piece of Romanian raw silk (Mrs. Colonel Paladi), a documents folder with embroidery on frieze (Mrs. Colonel Perticari), a calcined silver brooch depicting a branch from the papal tiara (from M. Boerescu and Mrs. A. Brăiloiu), a Saxon porcelain tea set (Mayer Weisseman couple). In addition to the cabinet from Carol’s mother and brother, the King and Queen of Romania also received from abroad a tea service from Emperor Wilhelm II of Germany and his wife, a solid silver tea table along with a tea service from the Prince and Princess of Wied (Elizabeth’s brother and sister-in-law), a silver platter from the 1st regiment artillery officers from Germany. Besides, the Metropolitan Bishop Calinic Miclescu, on behalf of himself and the high clergy, presented them with a medal possessing the effigies of the Royal couple and the inscriptions “Carol I King of Romania – Queen Elisabeth”, “the 2nd/15th of November 1869 – 1894” on the obverse and the Romanian Orthodox Church symbols and the inscriptions: “The Romanian Orthodox Church clergy” and “Wisdom has built its own house” on the reverse.

    Prince Carol of Hohenzollern’s marriage to Elisabeth of Wied

    According to his biographers, three years after his accession to the throne of the United Principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia, it was high time for Prince Carol of Hohenzollern to marry, and thus lay the foundations of a Romanian princely dynasty. In this context, both the journey to Russia, in the summer of 1869, and the one around Europe, on the way to Sigmaringen, where he was heading under the official pretext of visiting his family in the months of September-October, had in fact the goal of finding a suitable wife. Carol met with King William I and Queen Augusta of Prussia and the Crown Prince Frederick and his wife, Victoria in Baden, on the 21st of September / the 3rd of October. It was there that Prince Frederick allegedly advised Carol to marry Elisabeth of Wied, who was his aunt’s goddaughter, the former Queen Elisabeth (wife of the Prussian King Frederick William IV, the brother and predecessor of Wilhelm I). Born on the 29th of December 1843, Elisabeth Pauline Ottilie Luise was the daughter of the Prince of Wied and Princess Maria of Nassau, one of the daughters of Duke William of Nassau. She and Carol had previously met – two years earlier, while she was wintering in Berlin at the Court of the King of Prussia, Elisabeth would frequent the house of Carol’s parents, where she had found a friend in Marie, his younger sister. One day, the story goes, Elisabeth tripped while rushing down the stairs and, as in a scene from a romantic movie, the one who caught her in his arms was precisely the one destined to become her husband. This was reputedly the first time they had seen each other. In 1869 an arranged meeting between the two – orchestrated with Elisabeth’s mother, but unbeknownst to the daughter – took place at the Botanical Garden in Cologne on the 2nd/14th of October. That same evening, Carol asked Elizabeth for her hand in marriage and four days later their engagement was celebrated in Neuwied. The event transpired to Romania through a letter of Prince Carol dated the 6th/18th of October, in which he announced having made a first step to fulfill “the all too precious will of Romanians”, “to see a resolute dynasty established in Romania”.

    The marriage, scheduled for the 3rd/15th of November, was officiated at Monrepos Castle in Neuwied, the summer residence of the Princes of Wied, first in the Catholic rite, then in the Protestant one. Among the guests, there were Prince Carol’s parents and his brothers, Leopold and Frederic, Elisabeth’s mother and brother, the Queen of Prussia, Augusta Victoria (the wife of Wilhelm II), the French and Russian ambassadors to Berlin, the Grand Duchess of Baden, daughter of King Wilhelm I and her daughter, Victoria, Count Filip of Flandre (who had been offered the throne of the United Principalities before Carol of Hohenzollern but had refused) and his wife, Marie of Hohenzollern, Carol’s sister, as well as other Prussian noble families and Prussian officials. Romania was represented by the Minister of Justice, Vasile Boerescu, I. Strat, the Romanian envoy to Paris, Em. Filipescu, Marshal of the Palace, Al. C. Mavrocordat, the appointed chamberlain of the Princess, etc. After attending a dinner held in their honor by the Queen Augusta Victoria on the 5th/17th of November, the newlyweds set off for Romania the following day. On the 12th/24th of November, they arrived in Bucharest, where a Te-Deum was held at the Metropolitan Church. Following that, the Minister of Justice entrusted Gheorghe Gr. Cantacuzino, Mayor of the Capital with the marriage certificates, for them to be transcribed to the civil status registry and the ruler and his wife signed a recording document of their marriage coming into being. 

    Queen Elisabeth 

    Having received a distinguished education – she learned English, French, Italian and Swedish – and having studied piano with Anton Rubinstein and Carla Schumann, Princess Elisabeth of Wied started writing poetry ever since childhood. She made her literary debut in 1878, in “Die Gegenwart” magazine by publishing Romanian poems translated into German, under the pen name E. Wedi. From 1880 she took on the pen name Carmen Sylva – in remembrance of the forests in her hometown, Neuwied, the capital of the Wied Principality – and the first work signed under the new nom de plume was the historic poem Sappho. She authored poems, tales and stories, novels (in collaboration with Mitte Kremnitz, by signing Dito and Idem), dramatic texts and memoirs.

    Elizabeth became involved in charitable activities both as Princess and as Queen (from 1881), enterprises meant to promote the textile industry and improve the health system: in 1893, she founded the Queen Elisabeth Society – a poor families relief organization – she established the “Munca” and “Albina” societies to provide jobs for widows, needy or sick women and well-born women who had fallen on hard times, she founded Concordia and Furnica societies, which manufactured Romanian weaving and embroideries, and on her initiative The Romanian Red Cross society and the Institute of the Sisters of Charity – a health clinic for under-privileged people – were created. She was also an advocate of culture and artists. During the war for independence, she had a small hospital set up in the courtyard of the Cotroceni palace, and supervised and helped treat the wounded. She died two years after her husband, on the 18th of February 1916. Elisabeth and Carol had only one daughter, Maria, born in 1870, who died of scarlet fever in 1874. 

    King Carol I

    Carol-Eitel-Frederic-Zefirin-Ludovic (the 8th/20th of April 1839, Sigmaringen, Germany – the 27th of September / the 10th of October 1914, Sinaia) was the second son of Prince Karl-Anton of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen and Josephine of Baden. He received education in military studies in Dresden and Berlin and embraced a military career. Following the abdication of Alexandru Ioan Cuza, he was offered the throne of the United Principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia, and was elected ruler by plebiscite in early April 1866. He arrived in Bucharest on the 10th of May, when, during a ceremony in the Palace of the Metropolitan Church, he swore to obey the country’s laws, watch over its religion and rule constitutionally. Shortly after, a new Constitution was enacted, the first of its kind to be developed domestically, without the interference of the Great Powers. Ten years later, in the wake of its participation in the war that broke out between Russia and the Ottoman Empire in the spring of 1877, Romania gained its independence and was proclaimed Kingdom in 1881, with Prince Carol being crowned King on the 10th of May 1881. During his reign, Romania witnessed industry, transport, culture and health developments. In 1914, after the outbreak of World War I, Carol accepted the decision of the Crown Council for Romania to maintain neutrality, despite the family ties with the German monarchy and the fact that Romania had become a member of the Triple Alliance in 1883. He died in the autumn of the same year.