A rare pair of Louis XV carved porphyry lidded vases circa 1760
- marble, prophyry
First recorded in France during the reign of Louis XIV, such vases were imported from Italy, where they were produced generally reusing ancient Roman column fragments. Because of the extreme hardness of this stone, these first models were rather simple in form. However, by the mid 1700s the necessary skills required to work with porphyry had been perfected and more and more elaborate pieces were produced. Such vases were particularly popular among princely collectors because of porphyry's imperial associations and with the grand amateurs who appreciated not only the craftsmanship required to execute such pieces but also the rarity of the material and its allusion to antiquity. Collectors in possession of carved porphyry vases comparable to this lot include the duc du Tallard, Randon de Boisset and the marquis de Mailly-Nesle, whose pair of porphyry vases were recorded in 1783 as "deux beaux vases de porphyre couverts, le couvercle taillé à gaudron et feuilles d'eau, la gorge ornée d'un fil de perle, mascarons à cornes de béliers et évidés figurant les anses le tout pris de relief et sculpté, le corps à gaudrons sur leur piédouche avec socle rond à frise d'ornements à jour et tor à feuilles de lauriers en bronze doré." The Randon de Boisset porphyry vases, sold from his sale, Paris, February 27, 1777, lot 439, were sold from the collections of James and Alphonse de Rothschild at Ferrières, Christie's Paris, December 7, 2005, lot 83. A vase with comparable, but twisted and more elongated, gadrooned body carved with similar rope-twist details and goat masks was commissioned by the maréchal de Richelieu in 1762 from the carver Charles Guillemain. The vase, now in the Louvre, was later acquired by the duc d'Aumont, (described as item no. 583 and valued at 6,000 livres in the inventory prepared after his death in 1782) and eventually purchased by Louis XVI in December, 1782 for 14,521 livres from the marchand Paillet. Porphyry was also incorporated into pieces of furniture as it was the case during the 1773 Salon where a porphyry table mounted with ormolu by Pierre Gouthière was among the exhibited pieces.