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The exhibition presents the largely unknown work of the German-born José Canops (1733-1814) for the first time outside of Spain. In the second half of the 18th century, Canops made in Madrid as a court carpenter for the Spanish King Charles III. Masterpieces of furniture art.


Canops. Furniture from the world


Born in the Duchy of Limburg, Joseph Canops, like numerous German cabinetmakers, emigrated to Paris in the mid-18th century to perfect his craft. From there he came to Madrid in 1759, where Charles III. as the new regent of Spain had the royal apartments designed and furnished.

At court, Canops worked in a consistently international milieu with the Italian Mattia Gasparini (d. 1744), who served as court painter to Charles III. was responsible for the decoration of the king's most representative rooms.
Here he took over the management of the newly founded court carpenter's workshop and, with his employees, created extraordinarily artistic furniture and entire room furnishings in a unique style for a good 20 years: a truly European creation, which stems from Italian traditions, the model of Parisian luxury and the enthusiasm for the exotic worlds of Asia.

In the work of Canops, this is combined with the precision of German carpentry and the wealth of the Spanish colonial world: including the exquisite use of mahogany and other exotic woods.

The technical masterpiece of Canops' work is made tangible with the help of a specially made partial model of the Berlin writing furniture in its original size. It invites visitors to touch the form and explore the original coloring and construction. Manufactured by the Berlin specialists for modern model building Werk5 in cooperation with the Department of Conservation and Restoration - Wood of the Potsdam University of Applied Sciences.

In addition to spectacular furniture, books, graphics, maps, musical instruments and works of applied art provide insights into the wider context of this time. The point of departure for the special exhibition is the acquisition of a Canops piece of writing furniture for the Kunstgewerbemuseum.

In addition to loans from New York, the Bavarian palaces and gardens, Munich and especially the royal palace in Madrid (Patrimonio Nacional), the cultural-historical context is illustrated by the rich holdings of the State Library, the Musical Instrument Museum and other Berlin collections, thus opening up to the audience a hitherto hidden cosmos.

The writing office, which was acquired in 2021 with the support of the Ernst von Siemens Art Foundation, the Rudolf-August Oetker Foundation for Art, Culture, Science and Monument Preservation, as well as the Julius Lessing Society and the Friends of the Kunstgewerbemuseum Berlin, is an outstanding example of Canops’ furniture art. Conceived for representative installation in the room, the cylinder office is three-dimensionally modeled from all sides. Built entirely of mahogany and covered with the rarest veneers, it unfolds a highly extravagant decor.

Canops furniture is extremely rare and, apart from Madrid, is only represented in public collections in San Francisco, New York and now Berlin.


  • "Canops. Furniture of the world” is curated by Achim Stiegel, curator of the furniture collection at the Kunstgewerbemuseum.

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