- Heinrich Gottlieb Köhler
- Nøstetangen glassverk (Manufactured by)
- Creation date: 1776
- Object type: Pokal
This engraved glass goblet has a unique and remarkable story. In fact, two stories: one of a dramatic escape, and another of its path back to Norway.
The “Sophia Dorothea goblet” was commissioned by Jacob Juel (1744–1800), who was a timber merchant and businessman. In 1776 a large ship built for Juel in Arendal was launched. The ship was christened the Sophia Dorothea, the same name that is engraved on this very goblet. On the opposite side is the three-masted full-rigged ship itself, bearing the Danish-Norwegian flag and the monogram of King Christian VII: C7. Each side of the oval name shield features a mythological figure: on the left Mercury, the god of trade, with a staff in his hand and wings on his helmet, and on the right Neptune, the god of the sea, holding his trident. The symbolism here signifies that the Sophia Dorothea was a merchant vessel. Jacob Juel planned to use the ship to transport valuable Norwegian timber to North America to sell.
Crime and flight
As a businessman, however, Jacob Juel lived a bit too dangerously. In 1774 he was appointed Government Paymaster; in other words he was in charge of Norway’s national treasury. The money in the treasury had been collected in Norway as taxes and duties on behalf of the government in Copenhagen. At a time when there was no banking system in the modern sense, anyone who wanted to invest had to borrow money from other sources. Juel yielded to the temptation of borrowing money from – naturally – the national treasury itself. In 1784 a deficit of 556,000 riksdaler was discovered, and when Juel was unable to replace that amount he was arrested and detained in Akershus Fortress. He managed to escape the night of 15 September, and fled over the border into Sweden with the aid of several accomplices and a carefully devised plan. He established himself as an ironworks owner in Värmland. Juel had powerful allies in his native country, who made a great effort to enable him to return to Norway, but they did not succeed. He remained in Sweden for the rest of his life.
Back to Norway
But what about the goblet? It was probably commissioned to mark the launching of the Sophia Dorothea, the ship that shared a name with both Juel’s wife and his mother. It was customary to design valuable goblets of this type to commemorate important events such as weddings, anniversaries or the formal opening of a new house. The goblet was used for making toasts, and was passed around the table to use when paying tribute to guests and hosts with speeches and toasting songs. The richly detailed, narrative decoration was engraved by Heinrich Gottlieb Köhler, who worked as an engraver at Nøstetangen Glassworks, where the goblet was made. Juel’s family most likely brought the goblet with them when they joined him in Sweden. The goblet was entirely unknown in Norway when, after 200 years, it appeared on a Swedish TV programme in 1996, and in 1998 it was borrowed for the exhibition “Skål for Norge!” [“A Toast to Norway!”] at the Museum of Decorative Arts in Oslo. At an auction at Sotheby’s in London in 2010, the goblet was purchased by a Norwegian buyer, who then sold it to the National Museum. This is how the dramatic story of the goblet ended with its return home – at last.
Randi Gaustad, Skål for Norge! Nøstetangens spennende billedverden [A Toast to Norway! Nøstetangen’s Exciting World of Images]. Oslo 1998.
Norsk biografisk leksikon [Norwegian Biographical Encyclopedia], article on Jacob Juel.