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Tuesday
Mar202007

A Thing of Beauty is a Joy Forever – The Miseroni Lapidaries – Part 5

The Miseroni families in Prague during the Thirty Year War

8. Dionysio and Ferdinand Eusebio Miseroni, the last scions of the Stone Cutter Generation

Of his boys only Dionysio, born in 1607, followed his grandfather and father in the art of semiprecious stone cutting. He was already involved very young with his father in the administration and upkeep of the Imperial Art collection in the Hradschin Palace and was nominated, at his father’s death at only 17 years of age to be assistant administrator. His father’s salary of 20 Taler as a stone cutter was graciously transferred to him. With savings and an assured salary, after the death of Ottavio the family purchased the White Rose House at number 8, Nerudova Road, which leads from the Mala Strana to the Hradschin Castle. In 1651 on the express wish of Ferdinand III he moved his home and workshop into the former lodging of the Captain of the Hradschin Castle. Other sources indicate that he had his living quarters in the back part of the Reichskanzlei, the Chancellery, looking toward the Loretto road. It is likely that the 1653 family portrait by Karel Skreta was made in the personal rooms and workshop in the upper floors of a building on the Hradschin.

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The former site of the White Rose House , the home of Dionysio Miseroni in the Nerudova Street Nr.8 in Prague and an aerial view of the Mala Strana close to the Hradschin

The Miseroni workshop stayed under the direction of his mother, Laura, until Dionisio was of age in 1628 and could sign commercial contracts. Certain objects had apparently not been finished by Ottavio before his death because the Miseroni workshop asked the Court Administration for a cash advance to finish them in 1628 and had then to be reminded in 1633, in writing, to deliver them as soon as possible.

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The large (185×251 cm) portrait of the Miseroni Family by Karel Skreta (1610-1674) in the National or Národni Gallery in Prague. This unsigned painting was mentioned in 1684 in Ferdinand Eusebio’s estate. Karel Skreta had decorated the Welsche Kapelle, the Chapel of the Italians, in Prague and was thus possibly a personal friend of the Miseroni family

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The details of the family portrait by Karel Skreta. Dionysio Miseroni holds his youngest daughter Anna Maria’s head, his second wife Maria Ludmilla Major von Gossenau points out to daughter Maria Laura the carved emerald in Dionysio’s hand. Son Ignaz Franz receives from Wenzel a piece of smoky quartz. Next to Dionysio stands his son Johann Ottavio, the future secretary of the Bohemian Court Chambers and Ferdinand Eusebio grasping a rock crystal vessel and the last of the Miseroni stone cutters. In the background is shown the carving workshop

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The 1653 view of the carving facility of Dionysio in Prague consisting of four hand-driven work stations. Each work station is manned by 3 persons, the operator of the driving wheel, a youth dosing the abrasive and coolant onto the burr and the carving master. Other persons present are probably polishing flat pieces. The large wheel of about 2m in diameter is driving, via a taut rope transmission the grinding and carving burr mounted on a spindle (see also 1750 drawing of it). From the painting a 1:40 drive ratio can be estimated allowing a burr rotation speed of 1,000 to 2,000 rpm. In the foreground workers pan and sieve abrasives and polishing agents

On the 21st of November 1627 Ferdinand II conveyed the Kingdom of Bohemia to his son Ferdinand III preparing him as his successor also for the Title of Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire.

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The portrait of Ferdinand III (1608-1657) of Habsburg by Jan van den Hocke, the Imperial Infantry Pennon with Ferdinand’s initials and showing one of the earliest representations of the white Czech Lion on a red background and his fist wife Maria Anna (1635-1696), daughter of Felipe III of Spain holding the short-lived Ferdinand IV

Ferdinand III, born in 1608 in Graz, Styria was, at difference to his father, less a religious fanatic and a quite a handsome man. He was interested in Art and Science and an accomplished musician and composer. He sought first a career as leader of the Imperial Army but could get this command only after Wallenstein’s death in 1634. His relations with Dionysio Miseroni was quite good and involved many orders for semiprecious stone objects, the supervision of construction work on the Hradschin and the artistic decoration of a new Chapel there for which he had to make a tabernacle with precious stones.

Dionysio married Judith Mayer von Burgried in 1628, a daughter of a rich landowner and merchant and from which he had four boys, Johann Ottavio (1630), Johann Karl (1631), Ferdinand Eusebio (1639), Wenzel Eusebio (1644) and two girls Anna (1633) and Barbara (1642). In 1646, after the death of his first wife, he married Maria Ludmilla Major von Gossenau with which he had another boy Ignaz Franz (1647) and three girls Maria Laura (1648), Christopha (1649) and Anna Maria (1650). Of those children only four boys and two girls survived and which have been portrayed by Karel Skreta in 1653.

The activities of Dionysio covered not only the semiprecious stone cutting activities and precious stone commerce but more and more also that of Imperial Treasure Warden and Royal Building and Fortifications supervisor. He served first as his assistant under Johann Karl König von Königsfeld, the successor to his father as Imperial Treasure Warden, and then in 1634, at the death of the latter, became Imperial Treasure Warden himself.

In 1637 the new Emperor Ferdinand III confirmed to Dionysio the continued use of the facility at Imperial Mill in Bubeneč for a yearly fee of 450 Talers and awarded him in 1642 an additional salary of 15 Talers as Royal Valet. The Court administration furthermore paid in 1643 the sum of 1500 Gulden or 1000 Talers for services rendered by Dionysio in supervising the speedy conclusion of building activities on the Hradschin.

One of the highlights of the semiprecious stone work of Dionysio was certainly the carving of the emerald from the famous Muzo mine in Colombia which Rudolf II had bought years before and was weighting uncut more than 2800 carat. Its value was estimated to have been 65,000 Taler. Ferdinand III wanted to have it transformed into a small vessel and Dionysio had to apply all his knowledge and skills to transform the two intergrown crystals with as little as possible loss of material.

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The carved, twin crystal emerald from Colombia transformed by Dionysio Miseroni into a small vessel weighting 2680 carat or 538g. The interior cavity has a diameter of 5mm. The cavity is closed with cover of green enameled gold and topped by a faceted emerald made from the core removed from the inside. The work was finished in 1642 and estimated in 1660 to have a value of 300,000 Talers. Ferdinand III paid to Dionysio 8000 Taler of which the last five installments of 660 Talers each were paid to his family only after his death

Ferdinand II convened a meeting of the Electors ( Kurfürstentag )at Regensburg in the fall of 1636 and sought to have his son, Ferdinand of Austria, recognized as “King of the Romans,” heir-apparent to the Imperial throne. In contrast to an earlier failure on December 22, 1636, Ferdinand II succeeded in having his son Ferdinand III elected Roman King. Upon his death on th of February 15, 1637 Ferdinand III became Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. In the meantime the Thirty Year War was raging in the Empire and Swedish and French armies were battling the Imperial Army. With the siege and subsequent fall, in December 1638, of the Imperial fortress of Breisach in the Alsace region just north of Basle to Bernhard of Sachsen Weimar fighting for the French, the door of an invasion of the Habsburg heartland and Bohemia was ajar.

Ferdinand III sensing the danger that Prague, the Imperial Treasures and the Royal Insignia of the Kingdom of Bohemia might fall into the hands of the enemy and thus automatically legitimate another King than that of the House of Habsburg, sent in December 1638 an urgent letter to Dionysio Miseroni. In this letter he announced that Count Khillenberg, the administrator of the Treasure Room of Vienna would arrive shortly and convey him a secret order. The order of Ferdinand III finally was: … bring rapidly the Bohemian Crown Insignia to Vienna. Dionysio, as the Warden of the Treasure room in Prague organized the transport immediately and send these insignia with a special messenger to the Emperor in Vienna.

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The Royal Insignia of the Kingdom of Bohemia with the St. Wenceslas Crown, dating from 1347 and King Karl IV of Bohemia, was made of 22K gold and set with 19 sapphires, 44 spinels, 1 ruby, 30 emeralds and 20 pearls. The royal orb and scepter are of much later manufacture and were ordered by Ferdinand I, grandfather of Rudolf II.

Dionysio worked predominantly with rock crystals and at difference with his father and grandfather preferred to make vessels that exploited the vertical, as grown orientation of the rock crystals. His earliest work was a large vase with cover that he made in 1639 for Karl Eusebius von Liechtenstein, son of Karl von Liechtenstein, the Viceroy of Bohemia. Karl Eusebius’s family had become quite rich because many of the confiscated Bohemian Protestant properties were given or sold for little to the Liechtenstein Father that had been an early supporter of the Habsburg in Bohemia. The famous Liechtenstein Art Collection now located in Vaduz, the Capital of the Principality of Liechtenstein took origin from these spoils. Karl Eusebius had purchased the 18Kg heavy smoky quartz crystal in 1638 from a certain Martin Dominik Wagner for 800 Talers and the transformation into a vase was fixed in a detailed contract, dated September 10,th 1638, between him and Dionysio. Dionysio had to make a …crockery in the form of a Mayenkrug (a vase to put spring or May flowers into) as big as the stone permits within one year time and was to be paid 3000 Rhenan Guilders inclusive all the expenses for diamonds, emery, lead, copper, and the salary of his assistants. The sum was to be paid in five installments and the last one was finally paid, at the remittal of the finished vase, on th October 6,1639. The requirement of...as big as the stone permits is the reason for the hexagonal and pointed shape of the vase which maximized the use of the hexagonal shaped rough rock crystal.

The Karl Eusebius von Liechtenstein had the vase embellished with gold decoration in Breslau by the goldsmith Tobias Vogt where he was on military duty. This decoration was however lost during the Napoleonic Wars and the actual one has been made in 1810 in bronze and gilded silver with enamel decoration.

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The Maienkrug, Dionysio’s first documented work in smoky quartz made for Count Karl-Eusebius of Lichtenstein in 1639 (37cm high, 30cm wide over handles). The design maximizes the use of material by espousing the hexagonal base form of the original quartz crystal. The object is in the Liechtenstein Museum in Vaduz, Liechtenstein

The follow-up masterpiece in the line of the Liechtenstein vase, is the tulip flower vase made by Dionysio around 1647.

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The vase with tulips, one of Dionysiso’s masterworks. The hexagonal vase with a 26cm high rock crystal body (46cm with the flowers) is made from citrine (a yellow quartz) and the inside is only partially hollowed out. The flowers are mostly tulips, then considered particularly precious and rare, and are made in Bohemian jasper, agates and rock crystal. The handles and the flower stems are in enameled silver. This work was apparently made without a direct order as Ferdinand III had to bargain hard in 1648 to purchase it and for which he finally had to pay 4000 Talers to Hieronimo, Franz, Dionysisien, and Johann Ambrosi Miseroni, which would indicate that Ottavio’s brother and Dionysio’s uncle Giovanni Ambrosio was either official partner of the workshop or still in Prague. The object is now kept in the KHM in Vienna

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A stemmed cup in citrine, a yellowish rock crystal (15cm high, 17cm wide and 13cm deep) made by Dionysio and listed in the object transferred to the Court in Vienna on th February 22, 1651. The object is in the KHM in Vienna. This shape predates that of a similar styled cup in the Louvre made in green jade and 25cm high. This jade cup was purchased by the French King Louis XIV in 1687 from the merchant Danet and comes from Augsburg/Bavaria. It could be a forgotten Ottavio Miseroni’s work also based on the style of the enamel decoration and the sculpture of the stem reminiscent of de Vries statues in bronze

Whereas father Ottavio had a preference for coloured semiprecious stones for his carvings, Dionysio oriented the output of his workshop more and more toward object made from rock crystals. Nevertheless two of his landmark objects in colored semiprecious stones are in the KHM in Vienna.

One set of objects is a teapot-like jug and basin in lapis lazuli with gilded silver and enamelled gold decoration. The handle of the pot is in the form of a siren. The importance of this object lies in the fact that lapis lazuli from Asia/Afghanistan was not normally worked in Prague during the time of Rudolf II and that the human head decoration takes origin from a Roman antiquity. The head of the siren is of another lapis lazuli quality and was identified recently as an antique piece representing a Roman lady, Antonia Minor, the wife of Drusus the Elder and mother of Germanicus and Emperor Claudius and Grandmother of Emperor Caligula. This head, carved during the life of Antonia Minor (36 BC-37 AD) sojourned many centuries in the ground, as weathering traces show, and has then been adroitly used as the starting point for the jug decoration. The joint between the “old” head and the “new” body on the handle of the jug is hidden by the double string of pearls the siren is wearing. The walls of the jug are quite heavy probably because Dionysio was concerned about the stability of the, for him, unknown lapis lazuli material.

The work was finished in 1652 and has been praised by Dionysio to the Emperor as … ein extraordinari stuck or an extraordinary piece but without mentioning the presence of the antique head.

The jug is complemented by a 46 cm long oval basin which lapis lazuli segments have been set in gilded silver and enamelled gold.

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The Antonia Minor tea pot in lapis lazuli by Dionysio (19cm high, 21cm long and 13cm deep) now in KHM in Vienna

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Detail of the siren on the handle with the head of Roman origin, depicting Antonia Minor, the Greek born wife of Drusus the Elder, mother of Germanicus and Emperor Claudius, Grandmother of Emperor Caligula and the starting point for manufacturing the object in lapis lazuli. Next to it is a head depicting Antonia Minor, found in 1844 near Bezier in the South of France

The second object is a jug in pink chalcedony which has not been fully completed as the handle in gilded silver or gold, for which a square peg was present, was not made and the emblem or family crest not completed. This jug was paid 300 Taler to Dionysio.

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The unfinished chalcedony jug (24cm high, 11cm wide) with the heraldic crest not carved and the handle not made. It was sold by Dionysio to the Emperor in 1652 for probably 300 Taler

The most prominent of the carvings of Dionysio in quartz is certainly the so called Pyramid he produced in rock crystal from Switzerland and which was delivered to Ferdinand III in 1653.

The 145cm high pyramid consists of a 42cm high bottom vase onto which four 25cm segments are stacked. The material for these segments derives from the interior of the vase which had been hollowed out with a tubular drill. This core was then utilized to make four cylinders of progressively reduced diameter each about 25cm high. The cylinders were mounted in a telescopic fashion with the help of gilded silver and enamelled gold rings. The pyramid has the initials DM (Dionysio Miseroni) and F III CA (Ferdinand III Caesar Augustus) engraved onto it. The bottom vase is also reproduced, not yet assembled, in the Skreta Portrait. The history of the vase has been documented quite well already at the time of its completion by Dancker Danckerts, a well known engraver and map printer from Amsterdam. He made several copper plate engravings showing the details and added a description of the object. He reports that the crystal has been found in 1651 in Switzerland and was given as gift by Sebastian Peregrin Zwyer von Evibach to Ferdinand III in Vienna. Count Evibach has been an unofficial agent of Ferdinand II and III in Switzerland and with the mayor of Basle, Johann Rudolf Wettstein, the representative of the Swiss Confederation at the ratification of Treaty of Peace of Westphalia putting an end to the Thirty Years War. Evibach had been already involved a village at the foot of the Gotthard Mountains (the source of the best Alpine Rock Crystals) on the side of the Emperor in the Battle of the White Mountain and had close ties with Altdorf.

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Sebastian Peregrin Zwyer von Evibach (1597-1661), the unofficial representative of Ferdinand III in the Swiss Confederation and purveyor of the rock crystal roughs for Dionysio’s pyramid and the engraving by Dancker Danckerts showing and describing the pyramid in rock crystal made by Dionysio Miseroni

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A shelf with Dionysio’s best pieces and his son Ferdinand Eusebio, as shown on the Karel Skreta’s painting. From the left to the right we can see a part of the Phoenix Jug, the bottom vase of the Pyramid, the Tulip Flower Vase but without the flowers, the upper parts of the Pyramid and the faceted Trophy Cup all in rock crystal

Dionysio brought the pyramid personally to Ferdinand III, which has been in Regensburg from May 31st till June 18 to assure the election of his son as King of the Holy Roman Empire. The payment for this object was made by the Emperor on th of November 15, the same year and amounted to 2,600 Taler. Ferdinand III has been apparently very much satisfied with the new object of prestige because the assistants of Dionysio got an extra bonus of 100 Taler and the sons each a golden chain. The object has been valued 20,000 Taler in 1677.

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The 145cm high Pyramid carved from Swiss rock crystal, the technical masterpiece made by Dionysio, his son and various assistants for Ferdinand III and now in the KHM in Vienna

Also the next jug has been cut from a rock crystal brought as gift by Sebastian Peregrin Zwyer von Evibach to Ferdinand III. The original body of the crystal is still more massive than that used for the pyramid. The large flat areas and straight lines represent a new style developed by Dionysio and has been, together with the engraved landscape decoration, probably influenced by the glass carver school of Nürnberg. Again its history is fully documented by an engraving and associated description by Dancker Danckerts in 1655 and shown unfinished on the 1653 Skreta portrait. Dionysio made reference to the jug in a report he had made after the death of Ferdinand III on April 2nd 1657. In this letter to the Ferdinand III son and successor, Leopold I, he wrote as follows:….an welichem über die drey jahre gearbeitet worden, vor welchem wan man die grosse mühe und arbeith betrachten will, 4,000 Taler für meine arbeith whole verdient wäre or …on which more than 3 years was laboured and if one deigns to consider the great difficulty and work, then 4,000 Taler would be well merited for my work.

After subtracting the payments already received, Dionysio finally billed 3,000 Taler with an additional 483 Taler for the silver, gold rubies and the work of the goldsmith. Rubies were only used once and for this exceptional large and clear crystal vessel. Normally the preferred red precious stone was the famous Bohemian garnet. The jug has engraved F III for Ferdinand III on it.

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The Phoenix ewer with cover showing a bird, the phoenix rising from flames, all carved from a massive rock crystal from the Swiss Alps, (51cm high, 33cm wide and 19cm deep) with gilded silver, enamelled gold and rubies. The bottom part of the 9Kg jug is engraved with Tritons and Nereids, the middle part shows pastoral scenes with landscapes, a deer hunter, a ploughing farmer and a sheep shepherd. To the right is the engraving of the jug made by Dancker Danckerts

The available records show, after 1656, a decline in the output of the Miseroni workshop occurring in parallel with the death of Ferdinand III and the establishment of competing stone carver workshops directly in Vienna, first under the direction Pietro Paolo Lucini and then by Giovanni Battista della Rovere.

The professional life of Dionysio has been however not been just smooth sailing and concentration on the making of these objects of art. His duties, as mentioned, involved supervising reinforcements of fortifications and new building in Prague as also the management of whatever the royal and art treasures were still left over from the times of Rudolf II. This safe keeping duty was overshadowed by the ongoing Thirty Years War which put Dionysio, in the last months of the war, on the center stage of a desperate effort to prevent them for falling in the hands of Swedish troops.

The Imperial troops were battling over 25 years on the soil of the Holy Roman Empire and adjacent countries the armies from Sweden, Saxony, France, Denmark and the Netherlands in ever changing alliances. The Imperial troops were first commanded by General Wallenstein and, after his revolt against the Emperor and assassination in 1634 by an Irishmen of his staff Walter Butler, by Ferdinand III.

The Thirty Year War caused more than 5 million dead out of 16 million inhabitants the Empire had in these times. Although many people died from direct acts of war, a large number of the population was decimated by the plague and other epidemics of infectious diseases as also by famine.

Several phases can be discerned in this war after the rebellion in Bohemia was crushed with the Battle at the White Mountain in November 1620.

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The principal locations of army movements, fighting, and pillaging during the Thirty Years War, with in pink these of the period 1618 to 1630, blue these of 1630 to 1635 and shadowed gray these of 1648 to 1660 or after the Pace of Westphalia

(See also http://www.lib.utexas.edu/maps/historical/shepherd/europe_war_1618-1660.jpg)

The Palatinate Phase of the Thirty Years War encompassed the years 1621 to 1624. Frederick V of the Palatinate and other Protestant rulers sought to regain the Rhenish Palatinate from the Spanish and the Catholic League. These efforts were supported by the Dutch who had been battling the Spaniards for independence since 1568. A strong Spanish presence on the Rhine was a strategic peril they could not ignore. All of these efforts were dismal failures.

The Danish Phase of the Thirty Years War encompassed the years 1625 to 1630 when foreign powers opposed to the Habsburgs could not look with equanimity at the developments in the Empire. The French, English and Dutch formed a league to oppose the Habsburgs. They found their champion in Christian IV of Denmark, who also had extensive possessions in northern Germany. Christian IV invaded, but was crushingly defeated, 4,000 deaths and 2,500 prisoners on Danish side, on th August 26,1626 in Lutter am Barenberge by the army of the Catholic League and a new Imperial force under the Wallenstein. Emboldened by victory, the Emperor issued the Edict of Restitution, requiring the return of all lands expropriated from the Catholic Church since the 1550’s. Fearing Wallenstein’s power, the German territorial rulers forced the Emperor to remove him from power and reduce the size of the Imperial army.

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Christian IV of Denmark (1577-1648) came to help the Protestant faction with an army of 16,000, but suffered 4,000 deaths and 2,500 prisoners at the Battle of Lutter am Barenberge against Wallenstein and the Catholic League

The Swedish Phase of the Thirty Years War encompassed the years 1630 through 1634 when Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden, concerned by growing Habsburg power along the Baltic, invaded northern Germany. He was not immediately welcomed by his fellow Lutherans and his sole significant ally was France of Louis XIII under the impulse of Cardinal Richelieu, who subsidized his army. After Magdeburg, a city allied with the Swedes was destroyed by an Imperial army; the Protestants grew concerned and began to arm. When the Imperial forces moved against Saxony, the Elector of Saxony threw in his lot with the Swedes. The Swedish army met the Imperials at Breitenfeld near Leipzig and annihilated them on th September 17, 1631.

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Gustavus Adolphus (1594-1632), King of Sweden during his triumph at the battle of Breitenfeld against Tilly, the Imperial Commander of the Catholic League. The battle ended with 5,000 Swedish casualties and 7,000 Imperial soldiers killed and 6,000 captured

The Swedes promptly took over and ravaged most of the defenseless southwest of Germany. With Tilly killed in the Battle of Lech, the Emperor had no choice but to recall the seasoned General Wallenstein and confer him the military command again. The Swedes and Wallenstein’s new army met onth November 16, 1632 near Leipzig at Lützen. The battle was a draw, but Gustavus Adolphus, who was always riding and charging with his famous Finnish Hakkapeliitat cavalry, meaning hack on or hit on in Finnish, was killed. The battle was strategically and tactically a Protestant victory forcing Wallenstein to retreat from Saxony but the death of Gustav Adolph, a federator of the Protestant Faction, did not allow translating this military feat in a political victory.

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Gustavus Adolphus, in the centre of the image, killed at the Battle of Lützen which resulted in a draw with both the Swedish and the Imperial army suffering 3,500 deaths and nearly a same number of wounded or deserters

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A contemporary print depicting Wallenstein’s assassination by the Irishmen Walter Butler and an 1855 painting by Karl Theodor von Piloty, showing Giovanni Battista Senno, the personal astrologer, finding his master dead

Fearing Wallenstein’s power and concerned by his intrigues and double dealings with hostile powers, Ferdinand II signed on January 24,th 1634 a secret patent removing him from his command. A further patent charging Wallenstein with high treason was signed on February 18th and published in Prague. Losing again the support of the Emperor and also now of his army, Wallenstein realized the extent of this danger and on February 23rd, with a company of some hundreds of men, he went from Pilsen to Eger hoping to meet the Swedes under Duke Bernhard, Prince of Sachsen-Weimar. After the arrival of the party in Eger, senior Scottish and Irish officers in his force, under the lead of the Irish count Walter Butler and still loyal to the Emperor, killed him in his private rooms in the night of February 25,th thus fulfilling the last prediction of his horoscope … you will die as leader of a group of discontented persons .

The Imperial and Spanish armies, reinforced with experienced and battle seasoned infantry soldiers, the Tercios Viejos coming from Italy and the Low Countries, joined and inflicted a crushing defeat on the Swedes at Nördlingen. All the Swedish gains in southern Germany were lost.

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Duke Bernhard, Prince of Sachsen-Weimar (1604-1639) leading the Protestant and Swedish troops on th of September 7, 1634 in the Battle of Nördlingen resulting in 15,000 dead and wounded on his side and 3,500 on the Imperial and Spanish side. The Catholic troops were under the Command of the future Emperor Ferdinand III and his Cousin, the blond Cardinal Infante Ferdinand (1609-1641), son of Felipe III King of Spain

The French Phase of the Thirty Years War encompassed the years 1634 through 1648 when, after the battle of Nördlingen, most of the German territorial rulers made their peace with the Emperor. Under the resultant Peace of Prague most of the church lands in Protestant hands in 1627 were allowed to remain so. Cardinal Mazarin, the successor to Richelieu and regent for the under aged Louis XIV, declared war on Spain and increased the scope of their interventions in the Empire. What was to be the last campaigning season of the war opened in March 1648 with Henri de Latour d'Auvergne, Vicomte de Turenne and the Swedish Commander Carl Gustav Wrangel uniting their forces in Ansbach for an attack against Bavaria. The united forces moved south, pushing the Imperials and Bavarians under Peter Melander, Graf von Holzappel across the Danube. The opposing armies finally met at Susmarshausen near Augsburg. There, on May 17, 1648, the last of the Imperial field armies were defeated and Melander killed and his army broken.

After Zusmarshausen, the Imperial and Bavarian forces fell back, first to Augsburg and then beyond the river Inn. Octavio Piccolomini d'Aragona, a native of Florence and field proven general of Wallenstein was recalled from Spanish service in the Low Countries and placed in command of the remaining Imperial forces. He managed to hold the Swedes behind the Inn, although all Bavaria behind that line was devastated with a fury notable even for that age.

Prior to invading Bavaria, Carl Gustav Wrangel dispatched a small column under Hans Christoffer von Königsmarck to invade Bohemia once more. This posturing was destined to weight on the negotiations in Münster and Osnabrück and give the Protestant side territorial and potential financial rewards by capturing what was the former capital of the Holy Roman Empire with the treasures in the Hradschin and the numerous Palaces of the Nobles. Königsmarck was known as an army commander particularly efficient in stripping enemy villages, towns, and people bare of all cash and usable mobile property and was thus ideally suited and highly motivated to capture the still rich Prague.

Königsmarck, with his Finnish cavalry corps advanced in Bohemia and was camping in Eger, the actual Cheb, when an Ernst Odowalsky laid before him a plan for surprising the rich Mala Strana part of the city of Prague. Odowalsky had been severely wounded on his right arm during a firefight near Plauen which forced him to quit the imperial service. He married the daughter of Mayor Schmiedli of Eger, and settled with her in a manor house there. When his property was devastated during a siege of Eger in 1447, he wanted to take up imperial military service again or obtain a small monthly pension. This has been refused apparently under quite abasing conditions by the imperial representative Albert Waldestein and Odowalsky then decided to take revenge by helping the Swedes advancing toward Prague.

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Print showing Ernst Odowalsky (1592-1672), the former Imperial officer who lead troops of Hans Christoffer von Königsmarck (1600-1663), center image, into Mala Strana and Rudolf Hieronymus Eusebius von Colloredo-Waldsee (1585-1657), field marshal of Ferdinand III and the organizer of the defense of the Staré and Nové Město, the Old and New Town of Prague

In the night of th July 26,1648, the day of Saint Anna and a Sunday, a small number of Swedish soldiers guided by Odowalsky were able to pass through the defect fortifications on the west side of Prague near the Cloister of the Capucine Friars. Around 3 AM they lit a powder charge that blew open the Strahov city wall gate, allowing the unhindered access of the remainder of the Swedish troops.

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The 1672 view of Prague with notes showing the attack of the Swedes from the west resulting in the occupation of the Hradschin and the Mala Strana. The Staré and Nové Město parts of Prague, protected by the Moldava River and the popular defense organized by Colloredo, avoided Swedish occupation

The 2500 Swedish troops caught all by surprise and instead of immediately occupying the Staré and Nové Město sections of Prague across the Moldova, could not resist the temptation of making rich bounty and immediately started to search to for the representatives of the Bohemian Noble Families for the purpose extorting ransom payments. They started to sack the Hradschin and the glittering Palaces of the Bohemian Nobles at its foot but missed Rudolf Hieronymus Eusebius von Colloredo-Waldsee, field marshal of Ferdinand III, who escaped across the river to the Old Town. This delay allowed Collaredo to assemble the scant military garrison, reinforced by university students, monks, and common people and organize the defense of the Old and the New Town by immediately closing the gate at the Charles Bridge. The first of the numerous Swedish artillery bombardments on the Old Town happened only on ndAugust 2nd and according to an eyewitness report ….. the Swedish artillery commander Arved Wittemberg did discover that after 1473 shots nothing had happened except that he had wasted a lot of ammunition.

Ernst Adalbert von Harrach, the Cardinal Archbishop of Prague, captured and held for a ransom of 50,000 Talers by Königsmarck, is one of those from whom we have a day to day account of the actions of the Swedish troops in Mala Strana and from Don Florio Cremona, his assistant, in their vain effort to pass the Charles Bridge

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Ernst Adalbert von Harrach (1598-1667) captured and held for ransom by the Swedes in Prague and an older illustration showing one of fruitless attack waves of Swedish soldiers across the Charles Bridge

The diary of Harrach reveals how Königsmark fixed the ransoms for the nobles and, when paid, gave them passes to leave town. In the case of Harrach he has been quite adamant on the 50,000 Talers by claiming that the Cardinal was a potential future Pope and that any leniency would have first to be cleared with the Court in Sweden and get approval also by the French. Königsmark proposed then that 25,000 Talers should be paid immediately and then 25,000 in two months. Harrach replied that such as sum would take him five years to get together. Königsmarck accepted however as an advance payment 14,000 florins and all the silver object of his household, such as twelve silver ducats, six platters, eight large and two small chandeliers, and a food warmer that required him to take up residence in the castle so to have better control over his person. Harrach had stowed this cash in bags literally under his bed and behind cupboards. The dealings between Königsmark and the hostages were quite business-like and revealed that it was not the first time that that Königsmark was squeezing ransom money from his prisoners. In a stick and carrot manner he gave, for example, Harrach a loan of 1,153 florins so to allow him to pay priests in different churches in Mala Strana or passes so that Noblemen could leave town and collect money from their relatives but with the obligation to come back. Harrach also reported in detail how he got a partridge here and a quarter deer there or other food items from visiting wives of the imprisoned counts. He was finally allowed to leave Prague with other Nobles which had paid ransom in full on the seventh of September after gathering 4,000 Talers and signing a promissory note acknowledging the total debt of 50,000 Talers. As a gentleman Königsmark had several cannon salutes fired upon their departure but, to the great disappointment of Harrach, Königsmark did not show up as promised, with the receipt for the 4,000 Taler paid by him nor gave him back the promissory note for the 1,153 Florins he had paid back.

Next to this ransom extortion business Königsmark did however do a good job in cleaning out all the palaces of the Bohemian Noblemen in Mala Strana and many of the treasures in the Hradschin Palace. The bounty acknowledged by the Swedes was equivalent to 7 million Talers and Königsmark’s part estimated to be about 1.5 millions. The total bounty amounted thus to about 250 Million US Dollars in actual currency.

To get to the Imperial treasures, Königsmark had to lay hands on Ottavio Miseroni, who was the acting treasure room warden and keeping the inventory list of safeguarded items. Unconfirmed reports indicate that Ottavio had been interrogated harshly and had to reveal and hand over the whereabouts some of the treasures. He has however been foresightful enough to hide many of them in the cellars below the palace and in the catacombs of St. Veits cathedral, saving many of the smaller and easier to hide treasures. The Swedes soldiers were quite experts in searching hidden valuables and on the 30th of August searched the tombs in the Strahov monastery. This was based on a tip that property of Count Heinrich Schlick was hidden there. Finally they found only jewelry and precious clothes but nevertheless of an value of 50,000 florins.

The hunt for objects of art in the Mala Strana palaces was full in swing under direct order from the Queen of Sweden, Christina, who apparently had given specific orders to Königsmark to clear out this or that art collection and library. Next to the need to rapidly satisfy her wishes, time was also running out because the negotiations in Münster and Osnabrück, which started in 1645, were in their end-phase. The signing of the Treaty of Westphalia in Münster happened finally on October 24th 1648.

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The newly composed political landscape of Europe following the Treaty of Westphalia

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The Codex Argenteus (or "Silver Bible") a 6th century manuscript, originally containing bishop Ulfilas's 4th century translation of the bible into the Gothic language and written on crimson parchment with silver and golden letters and one of the most valuable items robbed from Rudolf II treasure chamber and a contemporary painting showing Christina (1626-1667) on the left discussing philosophy and science with René Descartes

Königsmarck had successfully accomplished the bold enterprise and acquired the reputation of closing the 30 Years War by the last brilliant achievement. This decisive stroke, which vanquished the Ferdinand III irresolution, cost the Swedes in Mala Strana only the loss of a single man. But the Old Town, the larger half of Prague, which is divided into two parts by the Moldova, by its vigorous resistance wearied out the efforts of the Swedish General Karl Gustav von Pfalz Zweibrücken Kleeburg, the successor of Christina on the throne, who had arrived from Sweden with fresh troops, and had assembled the whole Swedish force in Bohemia and Silesia before its walls.

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Karl Gustav von Pfalz Zweibrücken Kleeburg (1622-1660), the commander of the siege of the Old and New Town of Prague. He became King of Sweden after Christina had resigned and moved to Flanders while converting to Catholicism. Modern view of the Old Town from the heights of Mala Strana, the firing positions of the Swedish troops

The Swedes where quite surprised by the tenacious fight of the people from Prague moreover as they were expecting that the old grudges against the Catholic Habsburg Emperor from Vienna would hade made them welcome. Voices were circulating on Swedish side that a …Witch with a turquoise mantle with many sons was helping the defendants by catching the grenades in flight and throwing them back to them immediately. This was a deprecatory allusion by Protestants to the image of the Virgin Mary typically represented by the Catholics in such a way in statues. The rumor was quickly discounted by Don Florio Cremona, the Priest of the staff of Harrach fighting in the Old Town, which affirmed that help was given by Virgin Mary due to the incessant prayers but not by her physical presence.

The siege lasted 29 days and finished according to Don Florio Cremona after the poor town had sustained the fury of more than 17,000 cannon shots, very many incendiary projectiles, the damage of murderous bombs, the fall of infinite amounts of stones and the ruin of many mine blasts on the 2nd of November 1648 when the news of signing the peace finally reached Prague. The casualties of the last act of the Thirty Year war happened where it all began, in Prague, and left 257 dead and 456 wounded on the side of the defenses of Prague and approximately 4,000 dead or wounded on the Swedish side.

The Treaty of Westphalia signed in Münster involved 120 paragraphs in which all the details of the new political order in Central Europe were defined. The exchange of the ratification documents was finalized on the 18th of February 1649 but further fight happened sporadically when different parties tried to adjust the agreement written on paper were with actions on the ground.

The Swedes received a large cash indemnity of 5 Millions Taler and control over western Pomerania, Bremen and Verden whereas Louis XIV was able to force the Emperor and the House of Habsburg to relent domination over Alsace on his eastern border. The Treaty of Westphalia is also considered the starting point of what was to become the law of nations.

Whereas most of the European countries evolved into consolidated nation states, the power of the Emperor over the political entities within the Holy Roman Empire further diminished with the consequence that Germany became a unified territory only in 1871. Within the German portion of the Empire, private exercise of non-conforming religion was permitted and the organs of government were rendered religiously neutral. Lands secularized by the Protestants in 1624 were generally allowed to remain so. However, in the Habsburg territories of Bohemia and Austria the Emperor was given a nearly free hand to re-impose Catholicism.

After siege of Prague the activities in the workshops of Dionysio Miseroni picked up again but he had some difficulties to finance in advance the running cost of his workshop. The wage of a journey man of him, working 13.5 hours daily, amounted to 4 to 8 Taler per month with food and lodging additional. Day laborers earned about ½ Taler and where paid daily. Next to salary cost also the expenses for consumables such as emery, diamond powder, lead, tin and copper had to be financed by him.

Dionysio sought and found then an agreement with the Court Administration in October 1652 and since then was paid in a monthly fashion 65 Taler which had to be deducted from the final price of objects sold to Ferdinand III.

In 1653 Emperor Ferdinand III recognized his professional and administrative merits and his devotion to the Court during the troubled times of the war, when next to safeguarding the precious objects, he helped to exstinguish a fire in the palace. He decreed that the Family should be allowed to better display their nobility, acquired in 1608, by adding to their name the designation von Lisone or from Lisone, their place of origin near Milan. Lisone or better Lissone is a small town north of Milan with now about 35,000 inhabitants. A further upgrading on the nobility scale occurred on the 24th of November 1674 when Dionysio’s sons Johann Octavio and Ferdinand Eusebio were elevated to the rank of a Noble Knight Miseroni, Master of Lisone.

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The Miseroni Family Crest after 1653, changed with the addition of a full sized single headed and crowned eagle holding in his claws a key, symbol of the treasure chamber duty and a lozenge or diamond, symbol of his engraving activities

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The 1665 map by Joan Blaeu showing Lissono and today’s satellite view of the same area.
Lissone was a poor village of less than 1,000 inhabitants when it prospered in the 12th century due to the presence of 5 cloisters of the Umiliati, a religious order. This mixed religious and laic order had as precept the exaltation of manual work under the motto Omnia vincit umilitas
or humility achieves everything and became, with weaving and wool cloth manufacture quite rich. Maybe that some of these manual work virtues were carried over into the Miseroni Family

With the death of Ferdinand III on the 2nd of April 1657 in Vienna, his successor Leopold I stopped the payment of monthly running expenses allowance and Dionysio had to let many of his staff go and reduce the amount of activity.

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Leopold I (1640-1705) the Holy Roman Emperor residing in Vienna and one of the last customers of Dyonisio Miseroni in Prague

Of his sons only Ferdinand Eusebio followed the footsteps of his father and Dionysio was grooming him for the job. Ferdinand was getting already since 1656, upon his fathers request, the 10 Talers monthly of Dionysio’s salary as stone cutter. In 1661, with Dionysio now 54 and his son Ferdinand Eusebio 21, the arrival of new material from Hungary led to a reactivation of the workshop and the hiring of two journey men. Vienna was asked again to pay a monthly sum in advance to cover the running expenses of the workshop but Dionysio died on the 29th of June 1661 just few days after receiving the payment approval from the Court.

The task of Ferdinand Eusebio, as head of the Miseroni workshop, was now to complete as rapidly as possibly the unfinished carvings of his father especially when the raw semiprecious stone or rock crystal was owned by the Emperor.

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The 14 year old Ferdinand Eusebio on the Karel Skreta's portrait of Dionysio’s family

Ferdinand Eusebio married twice, first with Benigna Schusterova von Goldenburg probably in 1662 and then, at an unknown date but probably before 1684, Maria Elisabeth Tichtl von Tuzingen. He had 9 children, 4 girls and 5 boys, born between 1663 and 1682

His first genuine work in which Dionysio’s hand is no more is noticeable, is a large covered cup made out of a smoky quartz which he had delivered to Vienna on the 20th of January of 1677. He has been apparently a little greedy when he asked 1,200 Taler for it because Leopold I, having now his own Italian stone carvers in Vienna, asked their opinion. They apparently did not consider that the price of their competitor in Prague was reasonable because the Court made a counter proposal asking for a discount of 20%.

Ferdinand Eusebio made strong opposition claiming that a journeyman would work an entire year and day on it to complete it (what would make only about 100 Thales cash and one year food and lodging) and that special materials and also day laborers were needed and expense. Vienna stayed hard and finally only 800 Talers of the total bill of 1,312 Talers were paid to Ferdinand Eusebio.

Stylistically the object followed the trend toward monumental pieces of which the rock crystal pyramid of Dyoniso was the precursor. The Imperial style of the bigger-the-better seems to have become the trend and the voluptuous and refined designs of Ottavio and of early Dionysio were abandoned.

Execution quality was still very high but instead of shaping the precious stones into new forms, the form of the object espoused more and more the original crystal shape loosing thereby the artistic freedom and the effect of surprise and admiration so characteristic of early work. An excess of decorative elements on the surface of the pieces also started to detract from the beauty of the underlying material.

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The hexagonal trophy cup with cover by Ferdinand Eusebio Miseroni in smoky quartz with gilded silver setting ( 51cm high, 15cm wide and 12cm deep). The foot and the cover is made in another piece of clear quartz and the black decoration of the gilded silver is only painted on and not anymore enamel based, as were those of his father

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Set of three of six vases in red and yellow jasper from the Black Forest with flowers and delivered in 1678 to the Court in Vienna. The handles in filigree silver are set with red garnets from Bohemia. The flowers are also in jasper and their leaves in painted, and not enamelled, green silver. The overall size of each vase is 37cm height and 18cm wide over the handles and 7cm deep. The six vases were billed 2,200 Talers

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Oval bottle in rock crystal with filigree silver set with Bohemian garnets (24cm high, 15cm wide and 9cm deep). The foot has been made from a separate piece and was glued onto the bottle. Ferdinand Eusebio had consigned this work 1680 personally in Prague to the Emperor Leopold I.

In the meantime an epidemic of plague started again to rage in the Habsburg territories and Vienna was particularly severely hit in 1678 suffering about 12,000 deaths overall. The Court and Leopold I left Vienna and, after a stop in Mariazell, took refuge in Prague. In 1680 the situation in Vienna normalized somewhat in the cooler fall with only 20 to 30 deaths a day down from a maximum of about 300 in the summer of the same year. The Court and the Emperor returned to Vienna only to be confronted three years later with another peril, the siege of Vienna by the army of Mehmet IV from Constantinople.

The pest pandemic extended from Austria northward through Bohemia into Saxony and Silesia. Prague was also severely hit forcing Ferdinand Eusebio to reduce his workshop staff down to one journeyman only. The output of the workshop plummeted and financial difficulties accumulated again.

Ferdinand Eusebio died on the 17th of July 1684 at the age of only 45. His widow Maria Elizabeth asked Vienna to be able to keep the carving facility and the lodging but no Miseroni scion was anymore active as carver. The Imperial Treasurer of Leopold I, Gundaker von Dietrichstein discontinued the business with the workshop but consented to pay all remaining open bills. The duty of the Treasure Warden was transferred to a son of Frans Luycx, known also as Franciscus Leux von Leuxenstein, a portrait painter from Antwerp which had been working for Ferdinand II, Ferdinand III and Leopold I. The last of the open bill was settled with Elizabeth in 1696 or 12 years after Ferdinand Eusebio’s death.

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Gundaker von Dietrichstein (1623-1690), the Imperial Treasurer of Leopold I and liquidator of the business relation between the Court in Vienna and the widow of Ferdinand Eusebio in Prague

Thus after four generations of superb workmanship in Milan and in Prague, the stone cutter talent in the Miseroni family died out. Other family members and branches prospered, acquired castles and properties and their descendants are still living today.

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The castle Krašov located about 28 Km from Pilsen in 1795 and in 2001. The castle had been purchased by the brother of Dionysio, Frantisek Miseroni around 1650 but, after his shooting related death in 1656 and his son’s feud with and attempted murder of the Abby Benedikt Engelken, a local large landowner, was sold in 1678 to the Abby for 20,000 Talers

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Some of the descendants of the Miseroni, the Interior designer Michael Hyzdal de Miserony and Markus Jurziczek both living in Berlin, Germany

This concludes my three part contribution which saw us follow jade and the destiny of the Art Patron Emperor Rudolf II, the life and work of a son of the Flanders, Anselmus de Boodt and finally that of the stone cutter and carver dynasty of the Miseroni from Milan and Prague. The have left us the description the lapis nephriticus and a legacy of stemmed cups in jade confirming that this material was available and worked about 300 years before is was officially discovered in the mountains bordering northern Bohemia.

Many of these objects of art are exposed in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna which I encourage you to visit.

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The Kunsthistorische Museum in Vienna and a view of the works of Ottavio and Dionysio Miseroni and Giovanni Castrucci on display in the museum

 

 

9. Acknowledgements

I have assembled this contribution, beside from the sources mentioned in the introduction, from numerous locations on the Internet and would like to thank their authors for their generosity and hope that the do not have a grudge against me for not asking them personally the permission to used them.

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