THE DUC D'AUMONT AND LOUIS XVI'S BRÛLE PARFUMS
The earliest appearance of the kakiemon bowls and covers can be traced back to when only one of the bowls and covers decorated with the phoenix and floral cartouches belonged to Jean de Jullienne (1686-1766), the director of the Gobelins, which were listed as no. 982 in the inventory drawn up after Julienne’s death on March 30th 1767, and had been located in the galerie of his apartment at the Gobelins.
The single bowl and cover was then purchased by Louis–Marie-Augustin, 5th duc d'Aumont, (1709-1782), at the sale of Jean de Jullienne’s estate on 30th March 1767, no. 1362:
`une cassolette, aussi d’ancienne porcelain, d’excellente & rare qualité à oiseaux, bouquets varies en couleur, & de forme à côtes peu sensibles, qui donne un double meéite à ce morceau, orné d’une garniture sagement compose en bronze, adjugée 610 livres au duc d’Aumont’, (`a cassolette from old porcelain, of excellent and rare quality with birds, bouquets of flowers in various colours with delicate moulding, which renders this piece more impressive, embellished with a subtle bronze fittings’,for 610 livres). Such was the passion of the duc for Oriental porcelain that he purchased 85 objects comprised in 46 lots in the Jullienne sale which had 198 lots of oriental porcelain, so that at least 20% of the Duke’s porcelain collection came from this sale, not including the objects he purchased later which also used to belong to Jullienne.
The single bowl and cover decorated with the phoenix and another decorated with dragons, cartouches and pomegranates were listed together as no. 628 in the inventory drawn up 1st May 1782 after the death of the duc d’Aumont valued at 900 livres. It is not known how or when the duc acquired the dragon cassolette, however, what is known is that he bought objects not only from the leading marchands-merciers such as Thomas Joachim Hebert or Lazare Duvaux, but also from the most important sales of the 18th century, including the Duc D’Ancezune’s, the Duc de Tallard’s, M.Gaignat’s and later M. Randon de Boisset’s.
After the duc acquired the bowl and cover at the Jullienne sale, he must have decided to update them and make them more fashionable with gilt-bronze mounts by the most talented and celebrated bronzier of the Louis XVI era Pierre Gouthière (1740-1806), in around 1770-1775. Gouthière is known to have supplied the mounts, as in the duc d’Aumont catalogue of 12th December 1782, lot 43 is listed with a G for Gouthière :
`Deux cassolettes rondes à côtes peu sensibles, ce qui augmente leur mérite : l’une à trois cartouches de dragon entremêlés de bouquets & grenade, l’autre à trois cartouches d’oiseau séparés aussi par des bouquets, tant sur le pourtour que sur le couvercle de chacune; elles sont ornées d’un bandeau à fil de perles entre deux moulures ouvragées servant de gorge, de trépied culot en cannelures torses, chaînons entre trois consoles à tête d’enfant terme, se terminant par une griffe de lion et socle à gorge unie à feuilles d’eau, présentant sur son dessus intérieur un soleil entouré d’un cercle à entrelacs découpés à jour, avec double socle de porphyre garni du haut d’un cercle à fil de perles, de guirlandes, de roses sur les faces et de socle à tore de laurier, le tout de bronze doré d’or mat, G. diamètre de la porcelaine, 5 pouces 3 lignes (14.2105cm); Epaisseur du socle 2 pouces 9 lignes (7.4436cm), Largeur des socles 4 pouces (10.828 cm ).
`Two round cassolettes very slightly lobed which increase their worth: one cassolette with three dragon cartouches entwined with bouquets and pomegranates, the other with three bird cartouches also separated by flower bouquets, both on the surrounds and the covers. They are decorated with a beadwork set between two moulded bands serving as collars, the tripod base with twisted and fluted base, chain links between three console with child head ends and paw feet, the base with a rim of leaves, presenting on its interior a sun surrounded by fashionable tracery work; each with a double base consisting of a porphyry pedestal decorated with a circle beadwork and applied garlands of roses on the sides, and a plinth with a laurel wreath, the whole made of gilt bronze with a matt effect by G’.
The duc’s collection was feted by his contemporaries and as a great collector and connoisseur himself, d'Aumont would assemble one of the largest collections of oriental lacquer and porcelain, marbles and hardstones in the second half of the 18th century, many of these set in superb gilt-bronze mounts by Gouthière. Significantly Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette acquired more than 52 lots from his sale both for their own personal collections and the future Louvre Museum. The sale catalogue of 1782 is divided into sections, starting with porphyry, hardstones and marbles, followed by a small section with coloured porcelain, a Japanese and Chinese porcelain section, ending with Japanese lacquer, furniture and clocks. Among the celadon porcelain, described as porcelains d'ancien celadon du japon or porcelains de truité fin d'ancien japon, many items are marked with 'G' denoting Gouthière's authorship. Mounting oriental porcelain, particularly celadon wares, was clearly one of his main areas of interest and in the 1782 sale, these items fetched extremely high prices with many being acquired by the King (J. Parker, Le Cabinet du Duc d'Aumont, 1986, p. 67). The duc’s sale catalogue included 17 lots of `old Japan porcelain’ which differs from the porcelain of the brûle parfums which indicates the great diversity and quality of his porcelain collection.
The brûle parfums were bought for 2703 livres at the Duc d’Aumont sale by the dealer Philippe-Francois Julliot on behalf of Louis XVI, with the intention of installing them in the Louvre Museum, but by 1792 the Museum had still not been established. Since 1768, the King had the intention to create a public Museum in the galerie of the Louvre and to use his purchases to decorate the new galleries, however, the project was only realised in 1793.
Julliot had the brûle parfums in his possession on the 22 Brumaire an II (the beginning of November 1793). Then they have been listed on January 9th 1795 in the inventory from the Depot de Nesle amongst the objects deposited by Julliot and belonging to the State,`Deux Cassolette de forme ronde à côté, cartouches de dragons, bouquets et oiseaux sur le pourtout, les dessins de la peinture sont différents l’une de l’autre, ells sont richement montées en bronze doré d’or mat, sur fûts de colonees de porphyre rouge aussi ornés de bronze doré au mat’.(“Two round cassolettes with dragons cartouches, bouquets of flowers and birds on the surround, the painting designs differ from one another, they are richly mounted with matt effect gilt bronze...”). After that, they were delivered and purchased by Denoor, interestingly in exchange for the natural history collection of her husband Levaillant and they can later be found in one of her sales on March 14th 1797 under lot 255 where they sold for 400 frcs. More recently, they were owned by Sir Alfred Chester-Beatty and by descent entered the collection of La Comtesse D'Aubigny until sold at Christie's, London,1st July 1976, lot 82.
THE KAKIEMON BOWLS AND COVERS
They are made of the finest quality Japanese kakiemon porcelain, not only evidenced by their acquisition by the duc d’Aumont and Louis XVI, but also confirmed by the comments by Le Baron Ch. Davillier in his publication Le Cabinet du duc d’Aumont et les amateurs de son temps : Catalogue de sa vente avec les prix, les noms des acquéreurs et 32 planches d’après Gouthière, published in 1870,`Ces deux cassolettes, de parfait qualité, font deux bijoux précieux e curiosité, par le genre de leur dessins le goût piquant & le fin du travail de leur garniture’ (`These two cassolettes, of perfect quality, are precious jewels of curiosity, with their style of design, the discerning taste and quality of their embellishments’). Although in the literature they were always stated to be circa 1700, the delicacy of the decoration indicates a mid 18th century date. They are decorated with an association of phoenix birds (fong-honag in Chinese), the emblem of the Chinese Empress and symbol of the South and Summer and the other one has a decoration of dragons, the emblem of the Chinese Emperor, representing the East and Spring. It is intriguing to conjecture whether it was the aim of the duc to unite the bowls and covers with the symbol of the Emperor and Emperess, as he had a very good knowledge of Far Eastern culture or whether this was purely an aesthetical coincidence. However, the choice he made to change the old mounts of Jullienne and replace them with the ones of Pierre Gouthiere is totally intentional. There are no records found to date to indicate where the duc d’Aumont purchased the dragon bowl and cover.
The term`Kakiemon’ derives from the name of the celebrated Japanese potter from the mid 17th century, who is credited with being the innovator of overglaze enamel decoration. The finest examples date from the late 17th century and have a brilliant white glaze and are delicately coloured with enamels in red, orange, blue and green and according to Durand, ..elegant sweetly sober compositions that attracted the attention of collectors. Such decoration was considered to be the highest quality and was extremely sought after.‘
It is known that Chinese porcelain was imported into Europe in larger quantities and for a far longer period than Japanese porcelain, which being so different from Chinese blue and white porcelain, greatly appealed to collectors with its delicate polychrome decoration so much so, that the demand from Europe for the polychrome decoration resulted in the Chinese shifting their production to polychrome. From the second quarter of the 18th century, interiors also reflected the move from blue and white porcelain so synonymous with 17th century interiors. Japanese porcelain was so highly thought of it spawned imitators in China and Europe and by the end of the 17th century the demand for the cheaper Chinese porcelain meant it surpassed the market for Japanese porcelain which had vanished entirely by the mid 18th century.
The mounts are superbly cast and chased and the matte gilding is a typical finish of Gouthière at this time and were probably designed by François-Joseph Bélanger (1744-1818), architect and designer to the duc d’Aumont. Gouthière and Bélanger collaborated for many years following their appointment by the duc to the Menus Plaisirs in 1767. Gouthière was a consummate master of the art of chasing and devised a new type of gilding that left a matt surface a technique that imparted to the gilt-bronze a soft, mellow tone.
The mounts are by Pierre Gouthière as the letter `G’ mentioned in the catalogue entry indicates that the gilt-bronze mounts made for the vases as well as the gilding and chasing were all executed by Gouthière himself. When the duc’s affairs were settled in 1784, Gouthière received the enormous payment of 76,955 Livres to settle all outstanding work he had carried out for the duc.
It is worthwhile noting that Bélanger wrote the following to the duc after visiting Gouthière’s workshop on 17th November 1774: `J’ai encore vu hier tous les travaux qui se font pour vous chez le Sr Gouthière; je les ai trouvés tous entre les mains de ouvriers et très avancés; je les suis avec exactitude et je ne les perdrai point de vue qu’ils ne soient entièrement terminés’ It is not inconceivable that the brûle parfums were among the pieces in Gouthières workshop in 1774 and thus had been completed in 1775.
The brûle parfums are in the form of an Antique perfume burner on a tripod base and it is surely not purely coincidental that they have a porphyry base so synonymous with Antiquity. Whilst this pair of bowls and covers are not unique, their gilt-bronze mounts elevate them to the exceptional and to date no other pair with identical mounts is recorded. However, a pair of similar proportions and decoration to this pair were owned by Louise-Jeanne de Durfort de Duras, duchesse de Mazarin (1733-1781), the duc’s daughter-in-law. The duchesse’s pair is described under lot 37 in the duchess’s estate sale on December 10th 1781: “ Two cassolettes with dragons, flower branches and pine cones on the lid, the collar and the bronze with interlacing circles and rings. They sit on a tripod base, with roundels and matt gilt bronze feet, and are raised on pink granite bases with ribbons and water leafs, both in gilt bronze.”
The pair was bought by the duchesse at the Julliot sale on November 20th 1777 for 1399 livres and 19 sols. The dealer who sold them had purchased them at the Blondel de Gagny sale. Julliot was the one who changed the mounts, thus transforming the items into more fashionable pieces. They were sold at the sale of the duchesse’s estate in 1781, lot 37, after which they entered several collections before ending up in the possession of the dealer Le Brun in 1791.
Also see Durand op. cit., p. 445 for a pot pourri vase made from a Japanese kakiemon bowl and cover circa 1670-90, with Parisian gilt-bronze mounts, circa 1770, although much larger at 60cm high, once owned by Paul Randon de Boisset and then the duc d’Aumont, now in the Louvre, Paris (OA 5488). It is also on an antique style tripod stand and is stated to have been made expressly for Randon de Boisset. It did have a pendant mounted in the same way which has now disappeared.
The base of the socle behind the mask on the offered pair is in 'mis au bleu' which is copper sheet metal covered in blue varnish. It is rare for it to survive as it is normally worn and regilded or overpainted. It is also very apposite that the sunburst and mask motif, the symbol of le roi soleil (the Sun King, Louis XIV) are on this pair once owned by his grandson, Louis XVI.
Gouthière is also known to have used cherubs and swags on many of his pieces, for the swags see a line drawing for a pair of porphyry gris vases and covers by Gouthière in the 1782 catalogue of the sale of the duc d’Aumont, plate 6. The berried laurel band and paw feet can be seen on a Chinese Kangxi porcelain vase mounted by Pierre Gouthière around circa 1770, now in the Getty Museum, illustrated by Wilson, op. cit., p. 107, no. 22 (87.DI. 137). However, the idea of the cherub terms supporting the vase seem to be a unique feature.
THE PORPHYRY BASES
The duc when he set up the Menus–Plaisirs to cut and polish precious marbles, employed a Genoese sculptor Augustin Bocciardi (active Paris 1760-1790), who had worked for the Menus-Plaisirs in 1766 and been appointed sculptor in 1768, who was responsible for cutting and polishing the stones. The observation in his sale catalogue notes states `M. le duc d’Aumont, jaloux de donner le plus grand caractere à son Cabinet, a fait les plus grandes recherches pour se procurer à Rome et dans tout l’Italie les marres le plus rares…’. The present bases are carved from Red Egyptian porphyry the so-called porfiro rosso antico, a porphyry which is only found in the mons porphyrites region betweeen the Middle Nile and the Red Sea. This type of Egyptian porphyry was first quarried by the Romans. After the fall of the Roman Empire the quarries ceased to be worked. Half cut monolithic columns and other fragments are still to be found in the deserted quarries today. Almost the sole source for the red porphyry of this type used in Western Europe were columns taken from classical temples and other ruined Roman remains.
PIERRE GOUTHIERE (1732-c 1812)
He was maître doreur in 1758 and was to become one of the most celebrated ciseleur-doreurs of the Louis XVI period. He originally began working for the gilder François Thomas Germain, one of the most celebrated doreurs of his era. On 7th November 1767, he was appointed Doreur ordinaire des menus plaisirs. In this role he worked with Bélanger for the Dauphine Marie-Antoinette from 1770. He also undertook a considerable amount of work for Madame du Barry especially for her Pavilion de Louveciennes. Among his other patrons were of course the Duc d`Aumont and his daughter-in-law, the duchesse du Mazarin and also the Comte d`Artois, later King Charles X for whom he made the chimney mounts for the Château de Bagatelle. He was subsequently employed by Les Batîments du Roi, in 1777 for the boudoir turc of the young queen Marie-Antoinette at Fontainebleau. By the 1770's Gouthière was in effect bronzier to the Queen whose shared passion for gilt-bronze mounted marbles was further emphasised by the fact that she purchased pieces mounted by him at the legendary sale of the Duc d`Aumont`s collection in 1782. The Queen's purchase of five lots was from her own privy purse and included the celebrated brûle parfum of red jasper in the Wallace Collection (P. Hughes, The Wallace Collection. Catalogue of Furniture, vol III, London, 1996, pp.1340-1345). Gouthière’s style is markedly neoclassical, with such motifs as fauns, sphinxes, Egyptian terminal figures, thyrsi, etc. softened by the extensive use of floral and leaf (particularly vine-leaf) motifs. He was never as austerely classical as Thomire.
DUC D'AUMONT (1708-1782)
Louis-Marie-Augustin, succeeded as 5th Duc d`Aumont in 1723 and in the same year took up his family`s hereditary position as premier gentilhomme de la chambre to the King. This position included the supervision of the Menus-Plaisirs who were responsible for commissioning Royal gifts and for supplying articles for the royal wardrobe. He and his duchesse lived at the hotel de Mailly from 1741, which they rented from the marquis de Nesle where they resided until 1753, until the inventory after the death of the duchesse was made. He moved to Place Louis XV in 1776.
The duc d`Aumont was responsible for appointing artists and craftsmen to the Menus-Plaisirs and appointed François-Joseph Bélanger (1744-1818) and Pierre Gouthière and he personally signed their warrants. Together they were both to be involved with the creation of many important pieces which included the famous jewel cabinet, now lost, but completed in 1769, to contain Marie Antoinette`s wedding present. The duc extended these ateliers in 1770 to include the production of bronzes d'ameublement and works of art, particularly those made of marble and precious hard stones, and employed the most talented architects, designers and craftsmen to produce costly and intricate objects made of Ancient and newly quarried stone.
JEAN DE JULLIENNE (1686-1766)
Jean de Jullienne (1686–1766) was one of the leading French amateurs and collectors of the eighteenth century. He was a great patron and protector of Watteau and owned more than four hundred drawings and up to forty paintings of his. He held an influential position as director of the Gobelins until 1729. Jullienne’s collection epitomised the most advanced taste of Parisian private collectors of the period. The two sales of his collection were major events for the European art market. His house still exists at 3b on the rue des Gobelins, where he had a great gallery displaying paintings from different schools, the most precious marble tables covered with antique bronze figures, busts and beautiful terracottas. In the windows, there were also marble tables covered with the most exquisite porcelain and biscuit and bronze groups.
SIR ALFRED CHESTER BEATTY (1875-1968)
`He was the greatest of all living figures in the mining industry, and with his passing the world has lost one of its most romantic characters', thus wrote the Times of London after his death in Monaco on January 19th, 1968 at the age of 92. He was an American by birth and one of the original mine prospectors in the American Wild West at the end of the 19th century and became a millionaire before he was thirty-five. He subsequently became a naturalised British citizen and earned a knighthood. He was responsible for the discovery and development of minerals in the British commonwealth and other parts of the world. However, he was most well known as an art connoisseur, especially of Impressionist paintings and he loved and collected rare Oriental manuscripts and the monument to the latter is the Chester Beatty Library and Museum of Oriental Art in Dublin. He made this gift as he was the first honorary citizen of Ireland and enjoyed a state funeral when he died.
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