In continental Europe, the 1820s and 30s saw the first signs of interest in historicism and the emerging curiosity in the Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque styles. In France, after the fall of Napoleon the restored Bourbon kings looked back at the Ancien Régime with great nostalgia and adapted some of its artistic achievements to their own taste. The use of carved hardstone panels and pietra dura plaques echoed not only the latter years of Louis XVI’s reign, but also the bygone eras of great European monarchs and princes. The casket offered here is the product of this stylistic and ideological shift and recalls the time and taste of the illustrious rulers of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. In addition to their decorative value, the Florentine pietra dura plaques on this casket pay homage to the Renaissance and Baroque in Florence and its incontestable contribution to the arts. The carved hardstone panels are in the manner of those produced at the Gobelins manufactory during the reign of Louis XIV; a French king with whom the post-Napoleonic Bourbon rulers, namely Louis XVIII and Charles X, wanted to show continuity and nexus. Thus, this casket is not only a luxurious object, but also an embodiment of the political aspirations and principals of the Restauration.
As with many other such boxes, the present example was most likely fitted as a jewelry coffer or served as a chest containing pieces of an amateur’s collection. It is also possible that it served as a diplomatic gift as such pieces were occasionally presented by visiting ambassadors well into the late nineteenth century. This casket is decorated with two European princely crowns in ormolu indicating that it cannot be ruled out that this lot was a princely commission or intended as an ambassadorial gift.
For a discussion on Florentine pietra dura panels, please see note to lot 5.
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