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Friday, July 17, 2009

The Boysen Family Silver

MIR Appraisal Services, Inc. has a number of interesting and historic items in its collection. Many are objects are most notable for their obvious visual beauty, but some are infused with a deep history that is beyond total comprehension. One such piece is a large tiered silver centerpiece presented to the German Boysen family of the 19th century on the occasion of their 25th wedding anniversary. This piece, however, would not be as exceptional had it simply been an elaborate and beautiful anniversary gift. This piece is doubly interesting not only because of its obvious physical beauty but also because of the mist of history it is veiled in. The gift has deep roots in the catastrophic German experiment with colonialism in South West Africa, present day Namibia.

The story of the German protectorate of South West Africa is one fraught with hardship and despair. Originally acquired by German merchants during the last quarter of the 19th century, it became clear that these forces alone were unable to properly manage the territory, and it was thus taken over by the German government. The German nation had only recently been formed at the conclusion of the Franco-Prussian War and was attempting to assert itself as a nation by engaging for the famous “scramble for Africa.” To European nations at the time, colonial gains were the newest and most fashionable source of displaying power and increasing wealth. The German colonial experiment started and ended before other European nations and after their defeat in the Great War and after a notorious attempt to wipe out the indigenous population of South West Africa, said to be the German nation’s first attempt at genocide.

With such a background, the origin of this grand silver piece becomes much darker. The centerpiece features two engravings on either side of the gift, concretely connecting the piece to this unfortunate chapter of history. The first indicates that it is for the Boysen family, residents of Windhoek of German South West Africa, and in celebration of the years 1875-1900. The second is a list of German colonial officials starting with Governor Leutwein, indicating that it is a gift presented on behalf of the colonial government. Whether or not the piece was actually presented by the Governor himself will never be known, but what is obvious is that only a prominent colonial family would receive such a beautiful and expensive gift.

The nature of this presentation reveals the great importance of the Boysen family in colonial South West Africa. Although the first names of the couple have yet to be discovered, the history research into the Boysen name has revealed that they were indeed a family of much local power. One Lieutenant Boysen died in South West Africa with a clash with the native population, and the Boysen name appears on a storefront in a postcard from Windhoek. With either a mercantile or military background in that region and era, it is clear from this gift that their contributions were valuable to the ruling German government.

MIR Appraisal Services, Inc. specializes in revealing the fascinating history that accompanies beautiful artwork. Our team of seasoned researchers specializes in discovering the interesting stories regarding clients’ artwork; stories of provenance that can potentially increase the value. Many art collectors without an abundance of research tools may not have the means of accessing these captivating stories and that is part of what makes a skilled appraisal service so essential.

MIR Appraisal Services, Inc.
307 N. Michigan Avenue, Suite 308
Chicago, IL 60601
Phone: (312) 814-8510

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    Chicago, Illinois, United States
    Welcome to our blog site! MIR Appraisal Services, Inc. is a fine art and personal property appraisal company dedicated to serving clients throughout the United States and abroad since our incorporation in Chicago in 1994. We specialize in the multi-faceted field of appraising fine art, jewelry, antiques, and decorative items. We also provide professional fine art restoration and conservation treatment for various media, including but not limited to, artworks on canvas, board, masonite, and paper. We offer professional and precise appraisal services carried out by our team of accredited appraisers for the purposes of insurance coverage and claims, charitable donations, estate planning and probate, equitable distribution and fair-market value. We started our art commentary blog site as a venue for colleagues and fellow art enthusiasts to share their experiences within the art community.