T he Sèvres vase is not only a fine and probably unique example but has a novel and charming history. Our client, who used our Online Appraisals Platform to seek a valuation, told us the family story which is such an unusual tale, it is entirely believable. Although it is impossible to verify, the story goes like this.
The owner’s family used to be hoteliers in Belgium, and in 1908 or 1909 a British polo team spent the night, and in celebrating their victory, ran up a hefty bar bill. The next morning, unable to cover the bill, the captain of the team left their trophy, this fine Sèvres vase as a deposit. Needless to say, the bill was never settled, and the vase remained in the hotel. The hotel closed shortly after the second world war and the vase then passed down the family line. Whilst this story is difficult to corroborate, the vase itself is dated to 1907, carries an unusual subject for the factory, and stylistically the ornament, reminiscent of a Grecian frieze is typical of sporting medals and prizes of the period. It is also interesting to note that Sèvres pâte-sur-pâte vases were given to medal winners of the 1924 Paris Olympics which helps corroborate the story.
The large vase at just under 18 inches high, in the Art Nouveau style, demonstrates a range of technical skills, most notably in the band of pate-sur-pate decoration by the artist Lucien d’Eaubonne. The effect of the layers of translucent enamel give a real depth to the frieze and the skill of execution in the band of polo players self-evident.
The pâte-sur-pâte technique was perfected at Sèvres in the 19th century before being exported notably to England through Marc-Louis Solon. An artist would build up layers of liquid clay applied with a brush with the details carved and incised to give the work the quality of Roman cameo. Lucien-Jules-Clément d'Eaubonne was a painter at Sèvres 1902-1914 and was particularly noted for his work in this medium.
We hope that an enthusiast of polo will bid on the vase and a successful sale will not leave the Belgian family with any lingering ill-will towards British polo teams in future.
If you wish to sell with Sotheby’s please access our free and easy-to-use Online Appraisals Platform. You only need to provide some information and upload images from your phone or laptop. Our specialists will review your submission and issue preliminary estimates for items that can be included in our sales.