Each object’s journey to the Museum is different. To complement the Museum’s collection, two elegantly forged silver Biedermeier style candle holders were acquired for a price of 3000 roubles from Olga Aleksandra Justīne Peniķe (1901-1991) on 30 October 1986. Both candle holders have an identical engraving on the obverse of their foot: ‘To Army Commander General Peniķis – Minister of War, Division, Regiment and Battalion Commanders 1921-1935.’ Along the edge of the foot runs an inscription in dotted technique: ‘Lauden – Serben’ and further along – silversmith maker’s mark ‘A.S’ and town mark – a key with a small cross.
What is the story behind these candle holders from the 1st half of the 19th century?
In 1935, these stunning candle holders were given as a present to Mārtiņš Peniķis (1874-1964) by the Minister of War of Latvia Jānis Balodis (1881-1965) and the commanders of divisions, regiments and battalions who had served in Peniķis’ subordination. On 13 August 1920 Peniķis was awarded the field promotion Army General and a third-class Order of Lāčplēsis for military achievements during the Latvian War of Independence. During the outbreak of the WWI he served as a Company Commander on the Galician Front and near Krakow where in 1914 he was gravely wounded on Christmas Day. The following year he returned to the battlefield as a Colonel and a year later became the Commander of the 2nd Latvian Riflemen Regiment. In 1917, he participated in the Battle of Jugla, as well as the Christmas Battles. When the regiment was demobilised, Peniķis remained in Vidzeme where he was taken prisoner by the Germans, although he was released after Germany capitulated in late November 1918. Early in December Mārtiņš Peniķis joined the armed forces of Latvian Provisional Government. His most significant contribution during the Latvian War of Independence was during the Bermontian offensive on 10 November 1919 when under his leadership, the 2nd Vidzeme infantry division not only succeeded in shielding Riga but commenced a counterattack liberating the left bank of Daugava.
The candle holders were presented to General Peniķis as a commemorative gift on his retirement from active duty, although he continued to work at the Institute of Latvian History and was a reader at officer courses. His passion for military history was also evident during his career in active duty. It was noted on Peniķis’ file in 1924 that ‘outside of active duty he is a lecturer, which presents a minor hindrance to his current responsibilities, albeit in our circumstances education institutions cannot afford to hire special lecturers’.
Presumably, the Ministry of War acquired these candle holders from the previous owners of Dzērbene (German: Serben) Manor after the agrarian reform. The last proprietors of Manor were the family of Baron Otto von Laudon. Dzērbene was expropriated from Otto’s widow Lilly Laudon in 1922 and most of the family’s belongings were probably sold.
The fact these candle holders were owned by the Laudon family is confirmed by Pärnu (German: Pernau) town mark (a key with a small cross), silversmith’s initials and inscription ‘Laudon – Serben’. In 1851 Caroline Hermine (1832-1916), daughter of Pärnu merchant Carl Reinhold Schoeler, married Baron Otto Franz Georg von Laudon (1832-1882), the proprietor of Dzērbene Manor. The candle holders were most likely included in her dowry.
They were handmade by the gold- and silversmith Andreas Sperl (1770-1841). He arrived in Pärnu from Turku (Finland) on 14 March 1801 where he had not been registered as an independent craftsman, however in Pärnu he registered with the guild of goldsmiths and silversmiths and worked independently. On 3 April, he married Beata Sophia Tiedemann, the widow of St Petersburg engraver August Hopfert, and in 1811 they moved to the countryside approximately 16km north of Pärnu. There he managed a dairy half-manor Parisselja (German: Parris) attached to the manor Halinga (German: Hallick). Sperl continued to work as a goldsmith but in 1819 the goldsmiths’ guild in Pärnu objected to him operating as a member since he no longer resided in the city. Possibly this was the reason that prompted Sperl’s return to Pärnu. He died on 19 January 1841 leaving no descendants.
The candle holders were made long before the marriage of Schoeler’s daughter, however in mid-century they became part of Caroline’s dowry. Having travelled from Pärnu to Dzērbene, then further on to Riga and lastly – the Rundāle Palace Museum, they are now displayed in the room dedicated to Biedermeier style in the exhibition ‘From the Gothic Style to Art Nouveau’.
Laura Lūse Dr. art
Mārcis Leopolds Kļaviņš, Expert of the collection department