Alexander Hornemann on Christian Lieberkühn’s pair of candlesticks

A pair of candlesticks from the dinner service of Friedrich the Great. The distinguished goldsmith Alexander Hornemann describes his personal impressions.


How does a goldsmith’s work today differ from the times of Lieberkühn and Frederick the Great?

AH: In our craft, the past does not contradict the present, it inspires it. However, in terms of design and and artistic license, we are much freer than our 18th century counterparts, who ususally had to work according to commissions.

Do you still use hallmarks in your work?  

AH: Yes, of course! They are even a legal requirement if the pieces are for export.

What trends do you recognise in current dining culture – are candlesticks and representative pieces still commissioned?

AH: In terms of actual usefulness, table services play a less significant role in the 21st century, but all the more focus is placed on their artistic qualities and finish. Many customers still prefer to purchase ready-made items, and we have a large selection of pieces to choose from.

What fascinates you most about silver as a material? 

AH: The magic that the metal holds becomes obvious when you hold it in your hands. In contrast to the “masculine” nature of gold, silver is more “feminine”. Its healing properties are said to derive from its ability to increase openness and intuition. It is also thought to sharpen ones perception for psychological problems.

Which “conversation piece” was your most accomplished work so far?

AH: Many of our jewellery pieces have a high communication value. In the best of cases, jewellery should be a statement and not merely a decoration. Our works with animal motifs are a case in point, for example the saddled fish design based on a detail from the “Temptation of Saint Anthony” by Hieronymus Bosch.

Have you ever declined a commission? 

AH: I am occasionally forced to decline commissions due to time pressure. Many people have only a vague idea of the immense work that goes into the design and creation of our jewellery and objects. 

Under which Prussian king would you have wanted to serve as court goldsmith, a function which you fulfil in a metaphorical sense for modern day Berlin?

AH: Definitely under Frederick “the Great”. His work as a humanist author and his active role in the design and planning of Sanssouci Palace illustrate the constructive cooperative relationship that Frederick established with his artisans. These candlesticks must also have been designed in a collaborative process between Frederick II and his court goldsmith Christian Lieberkühn.