Tobias Locker will be coming to speak at the Françoise and Georges Selz Lectures on 18th- and 19th-Century French Decorative Arts and Culture on Tuesday, February 12, 2013. His talk is entitled “Paris—Potsdam—Paris: Gilt Bronzes ‘à la française’ in Prussia and the Circulation of Knowledge.”

Tobias Locker is Lecturer in Art History at Saint Louis University, Madrid. He received his M.A. in Art History from the Freie Universität, Berlin, and his Ph.D. in Art History from the Technische Universität, Berlin. Trained as a cabinetmaker, Locker’s work focuses on furniture and interior design in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Europe. He is currently preparing an essay entitled “Referring to the Historic Baroque: Franco Regime, Classical and Neo-Baroque,” for a forthcoming volume on The ‘Baroque’ in the Construction of a National Culture in Francoist Spain, co-edited with Paula Barreiro-López and Carey Casten as a special issue of the Bulletin of Spanish Studies.

In 1749, the Swiss-born decorative sculptor Johann Melchior Kambly (1718-84) copied a furniture ensemble by the Parisian ébéniste Jean Pierre Latz for the Prussian king, featuring rich gilt bronze mounts that were not just recast but remodeled. Encouraged by this commission, the entrepreneurial Kambly founded an official ‘fabrique des bronzes dorés’ that benefited from the knowledge and expertise of employees hired on a secret mission in Paris. The firm’s lucrative royal commissions included the famous tortoiseshell furniture and an entire wall-bound decoration of ‘bronze-doré’ for the dinner hall of the town palace at Potsdam, which are regarded as some of the most exceptional pieces in the former royal residences of Potsdam-Sanssouci. Although well known during the eighteenth century, Kambly fell into oblivion over the years and his royal furniture—due to its high quality—was long thought to be French. Rediscovered as ‘genuine Prussian items’ at the end of the nineteenth century, Kambly’s works were copied by the famous furniture maker Joseph-Émmanuel Zwiener at the request of the German Emperor William II, and exhibited at the World’s Fair in 1900.

Locker’s talk will focus on the largely unknown working practice of this artisan enterprise, which comprised several workshops with various employees. The knowledge transfer that occurred there exemplifies how the Parisian fashions that led the taste for luxury interiors among continental European elites during much of the eighteenth century were adapted to their specific needs. By means of some distinguished bronzes, it will be shown that the French models that had once influenced Kambly in Potsdam found their way back to Paris, leaving traces in the luxury furniture produced by François Linke more than 150 years later.

Light refreshments will be served at 5:45 pm. The presentation will begin at 6:00 pm.

RSVP is required.

PLEASE NOTE that our Lecture Hall can only accommodate a limited number of people, so please come early if you would like to have a seat in the main room. We also have overflow seating available; all registrants who arrive late will be seated in the overflow area.