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Details & Cataloguing

Collections & Curiosities: Silver, Ceramics, and Objects of Vertu

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A pair of Sèvres vases and covers 
circa 1775-80
(Boizot à têtes de boucs), designed by Louis-Simon Boizot, each finely painted on the front with putti in a landscape, depicting either a scene emblematic of love or Bacchanalia, and on the reverse with a corresponding ribbon-tied trophy depicting a billing dove for love or a grape-filled basket among other symbolic elements, all within an elaborate tooled gilt border surrounded by foliate scrolls and wreaths beneath a gilt molded foliate-scroll interrupted by gilt ram's-head handles, the lower body molded with overlapping gilt stiff leaves, interlaced L's in blue.
heights 14 3/4 in.
37.5 cm
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Catalogue Note

The design for the present vases by Louis-Simon Boizot, the acclaimed sculptor and director of the sculpture workshop at the Sèvres manufactory, (fig. 1) is in the Sèvres, Cité de la cèramique, inventory no. 2011.3.416, and was exhibited in the exhibition Louis-Simon Boizot (1743-1809), Sculpteur du roi et directeur de l'atelier de sculpture à la Manufacture de Sèvres, Paris, Versailles in 2001.

The rarity of the form and decoration of the present pair of vases is manifold. Although there are no records of these vases under any painter's names in the artists' ledgers (registres de peintres) for the Sèvres manufactory, which start in 1778, the superior quality of the figural painting on the present vases suggests that they were painted by one of the highest paid figure painters at the time. Possible painters are Charles-Eloi Asselin, Étienne Charles Le Guay or Nicolas-Pierre Pithou le jeune, all of whose works are illustrated in Geoffrey de Bellaigue, The Louis XVI Service, Sèvres Porcelain in the Collection of Her Majesty the Queen, 1986. A garniture of three vases and covers, attributed to Pithou le jeune and dated circa 1777-80, similarly painted on the front against a white ground with mythological scenes emblematic of love and the reverse with trophies, was sold at Christie's New York, October 9, 2013, lot 524.  

Imitating the neoclassical ormolu-mounted marble vases of the Louis XVI period, the present vases draw especially close parallels with Pierre Gouthière's work, for whom Boizot occasionally provided designs. Charlotte Vignon and Christian Baulez outline these collaborations in Pierre Gouthière, Virtuoso Gilder at the French Court, p. 376, which include a chimneypiece (cat. 28) and a clock (cat. 19). The rams' head handles on the present vases are particularly similar to the gilt bronze handles interrupting the similar relief foliate frieze on the porphyry vase made by Pierre Gouthière after a design by François-Joseph Bèlanger, dating to circa 1775-80, ibid., p. 192, cat. no. 12, which suggest the interchange of influences between these artists. Mirroring the fashionable gilt bronze-mounted marble vases of this period allows the factory to demonstrate their dexterity in gilding while also distracting from the technical challenges faced in firing the ground colors on the newly invented hard paste porcelain.

Other versions of vases with rams' head handles appear to be made from 1763 onward. These include a pair of vases and stoppers (vases à tête de boucs), circa 1768, in the Paul Getty Museum, illustrated in Adrian Sassoon, Vincennes and Sèvres Porcelain, Catalogue of the Collections, cat. no. 18, p. 89. The shape of these vases are more globular with a thinner neck; and the handles, although with similar rams' heads, include bunches of grapes issuing from the ram’s mouth. According to Sassoon, the earliest mention of ‘vase à boucis of a potpourri vase sold by the factory in 1763, ibid., p. 88. A vase of the same shape as the example in the Getty Museum, dating to circa 1767-70, but without the cluster of grapes on the handles is in the British Royal Collection and is illustrated in Geoffrey de Bellaigue, Sèvres, Porcelain from the Royal Collection, cat. no. 116, p. 110.

A clock vase and cover (‘vase pendule Boizot’), also designed Boizot circa 1781, is illustrated in Rosalind Savill, The Wallace Collection, p. 465, cat. no. C373. The clock vase has the same body as the present vase and similar decorative elements, including the overlapping leaves on the lower body and beading on the stem and upper body edge.

An earlier version of this form, dated 1769, with the same relief foliate frieze and similar gilt decoration, but affixed with scroll handles and reserved with oriental figures against a red ground, was sold at Sotheby's New York, May 20, 1989, lot 102.

A pair of vases of this same model decorated around the body with putti in relief in biscuit and affixed with the same handles imitating patinated bronze, dating to circa 1794, is illustrated in Pierre Kjellberg, Objets Montés du Moyen Âges à nos jours, p. 134.

Collections & Curiosities: Silver, Ceramics, and Objects of Vertu

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New York