These spectacular ewers have all the hallmarks of the celebrated bronzier Claude Galle (1759-1815). Their severe forms conform to the early Empire taste for Antique vessels and their restrained coloration of only the dark patination with gilt-bronze highlights further emphasizes this sobriety. However, with the gilt-bronze mounts, all pretense of restraint are abandoned. And it is both their dazzling quality and extreme originality link these pieces so closely to the oeuvre of Galle.
There is such a rich profusion of Empire ornament, ranging from the flaming torcheres, harps and other vegetal motifs to the bestiary of animal ornament including dragons, lions, butterflies and the grotesque masks on the spouts. Some of these elements show up on the group of ewers and vases, all attributed to Galle, illustrated in H. Ottomeyer and P. Pröschel, Vergoldete Bronzen: Die Bronzearbeiten des Spätbarock und Klassizismus, Munich, 1986, pp. 363-365.
Galle's pieces were bought in great number by the Russian Imperial family and aristocratic followers while on visits to Paris, and this accounts for the large group still in the many state palace museums of St. Petersburg. And his designs also influenced a generation of Russian craftsman who, while taking their cues from Galle's prototypes, created their own, and uniquely Russian, works of art. An important pair of candelabra that would have appealed to both French and Russian buyers, with Galle's trademark diverse decorative elements, is in a private collection and illustrated in A. Gaydamak, Russian Empire: Architecture, Decorative and Applied Arts, Interior Decoration 1800-1830, Moscow, 2000, p. 177.
Another pair of ewers, in the manner of Galle and made for the Russian market, were sold Christie's, New York, 20 May 2008, lot 345 ($145,000 incl. premium).