These superb lapis lazuli vases were once part of the magnificent collection of Pierre Nicholas Hoorn van Vlooswyck, also known as Le Baron de Hoorn (1743-1809) and were sold in the seminal sale of his collections on 22 November 1809. The Baron's extensive collection consisted of more than one hundred and twenty vases, cups and other objects in precious hardstones and marbles, with as many as thirteen pieces in lapis, and other objects incorporating or imitating the rare stone, highlighting the Baron's particular fondness for the stone.
LAPIS AND OTHER STONES
Lapis, along with other precious hardstones such as porphyry, amethyst, jasper, and agate, was among the most sought after objets de luxe in the late 18th Century. A fervent admirer and keen collector of such precious goods was the duc d'Aumont (1709-1782), premier gentilhomme ordinaire de la Chambre du Roi, who established an atelier in the Hôtel des Menus-Plaisirs du Roi for cutting and polishing hardstones and precious marbles. A testament to the continued desirability of lapis lazuli, a pair of ormolu-mounted lapis vases, formerly in the collection of the Baron Basile de Schlichting, is now in the Musée du Louvre, Paris (inv. OA6891) (ill. in D. Alcouffe et al., Gilt Bronzes in the Louvre, Dijon, 2004, p.76).
BARON VAN HOORN
A cultivated Dutchman, le Baron de Hoorn spent a large part of his youth in Italy, where his passion for antiquities is known to have originated. He made traveling and collecting precious works of art a life-long career and assembled one of the most important collections of Boulle furniture, precious stones and rare marbles. Van Hoorn eventually settled in Paris, where he remained for nearly fifteen years, first residing in the 'grand appartement' at the hôtel de Roquelaure and later in the hôtel de Vendôme where he died at the age of 65.
Regarded as one of the most erudite collectors of his time, his collection of precious and rare stones was celebrated throughout Europe and included green and red porphyry, agate, sardonyx, rock crystal, jade, veined alabaster and fluorspar, some of which he had acquired at famous sales such as the duc d'Aumont's collection sale in 1782, whilst others had come onto the market following the Revolution. It was the precious lapis lazuli however, a then rare material reputedly from Persia, which held the central place in Van Hoorn's magnificent collection, the most important piece of which was the superb pair of lapis lazuli vases here offered.
The latter pair of vases was sold as lot 350 in Van Hoorn's collection sale on 22 November 1809. The most expensive lot in the sale, the vases were then valued at 1855 francs and described as 'Deux grands et beaux vases de lapis de Perse, forme d'urne, avec couvercles, piédouches & doubles socles, placés sur leurs piédestaux, ornés chacun de quatre plaques rondes & de quatre plus petites & longues en lapis; le tout enrichi d'ornements dorés au mat; élevés sur socles plaqueés du même lapis et posés sur leurs socles de granit oriental rose de 8 po. de diam., entourés d'un tore à feuilles de laurier, dorés au mat et recouverts de leurs cages de verre'.
Van Hoorn's fascination for lapis had driven him to collect a plethora of objects in lapis, incorporating lapis or imitating the stone, some of which mounted in gilt-bronze. Among such was a table made in Paris and inset with glass panels imitating lapis (lot 230 in the 1809 Van Hoorn sale); a Louis XVI mantel clock by Lepaute featuring a bronze figure of Clio, the muse of History, further enriched most probably at the Baron's request with a central lapis cameo of Minerva Goddess of War, a frieze of sixty-four lapis beads and further lapis medallions and lozenges to the base (lot 78 in the 1809 Van Hoorn sale); as well as close to thirty paintings on lapis and other precious hardstones. Among the many chefs d'oeuvre in Van Hoorn's collection which were sold at auction recently was a Louis XIV petite armoire attributed to André-Charles Boulle, from the Wildenstein Collection, sold at Christie's, London,14-15 December 2005, lot 5 (£1,016,000 including premium) and a Louis XV ormolu clock by Julien Le Roy and barometer by Lange de Bourbon, sold at Christie's, New York, 21 May 1996, lot 254 ($288,500 including premium).