• Christies auction house James Christie logo

    Sale 7445

    Important European Furniture, Sculpture and Tapestries

    6 December 2007, London, King Street

  • Lot 130

    A PAIR OF LOUIS XV ORMOLU AND CHINESE CLAIR DE LUNE CELADON PORCELAIN VASES

    THE ORMOLU MOUNTS CIRCA 1760, THE PORCELAIN CIRCA 1720-1750

    Price Realised  

    A PAIR OF LOUIS XV ORMOLU AND CHINESE CLAIR DE LUNE CELADON PORCELAIN VASES
    THE ORMOLU MOUNTS CIRCA 1760, THE PORCELAIN CIRCA 1720-1750
    EACH WITH FLASK-SHAPED BODY INSPIRED BY BRONZE PROTOTYPES, SURMOUNTED BY A SHAPED OVAL NECK CENTRED BY A ROCKWORK SHELL AND FLANKED BY FLUTED BORDERS AND SCROLLS, ABOVE CHERUB CLASPS SUSPENDING FLORAL GARLANDS, THE SHAPED RECTANGULAR BASE WITH REEDED BORDER AND FOLIATE AND CABOCHON-CAST CORNER CLASPS, ON PIERCED OVAL FEET CAST WITH FOLIAGE, MINOR LOSSES AND RESTORATION TO THE FLORAL GARLANDS
    12 IN. (30.5 CM.) HIGH; 6¼ IN. (16 CM.) WIDE; 4 IN. (10 CM.) DEEP (2)


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    THESE SUMPTUOUSLY MOUNTED VASES ARE IN THE LATE ROCOCO STYLE OF AROUND 1760, WHICH REPRESENTED A REACTION TO THE FANCIFUL ASYMMETRY OF EARLY ROCOCO, THE GOûT PITTORESQUE OF THE 1730S AND 1740S. THE FEET AND SPOUTS ARE CURVED, AND THE UPPER RIM IS CENTRED BY LARGE, SHELL-LIKE ROCAILLE, BUT THE OVERALL DESIGN IS FULLY SYMMETRICAL. THE REEDED LOWER BORDER, THE NATURALISTIC GARLANDS OF FLOWERS, AND THE FIGURES OF DRAPED BOYS AT THE SIDES - SUPPORTING THE RIM WITH THEIR RIGHT HAND AND HOLDING THE FLORAL SWAGS WITH THEIR LEFT ONE - HERALD THE ADVENT OF A NEW CLASSICISM. AT A TIME WHEN AN AGGRESSIVE NEO-CLASSICISM, THE SO-CALLED GOûT GREC, WAS ALREADY BEING ADVOCATED BY A SMALL NUMBER OF AVANT-GARDE PATRONS AND ARTISTS, MANY PREFERRED THE GENEROUS, SWEEPING FORMS OF THIS ROCOCO RECTIFIYé. THE BEAUTIFULLY CHASED MOUNTS ADORN RARE CELADON VASES WHOSE SHAPE IS DERIVED FROM CHINESE ARCHAIC BRONZE VESSELS. NO OTHER SIMILAR PAIR APPEARS TO BE RECORDED, ALTHOUGH NEARLY IDENTICAL BASES OCCUR ON OTHER PIECES, SUCH AS A PAIR OF CLAIR DE LUNE PAGODA VASES IN THE RIJKSMUSEUM (C. JöRG, CHINESE CERAMICS IN THE COLLECTION OF THE RIJKSMUSEUM, AMSTERDAM, AMSTERDAM-LONDON 1977, NO. 266) AND A BOTTLE-SHAPED VASE IN THE WRIGHTSMAN COLLECTION (F.J.B. WATSON, THE WRIGHTSMAN COLLECTION, VOL. II, FURNITURE, GILT BRONZE AND MOUNTED PORCELAIN, CARPETS, NEW YORK, 1966, P. 239)

    BARON DE BESENVAL'S MAGNIFIQUE GARNITURE

    IT IS ALL THE MORE REMARKABLE THAT A VASE OF THIS MODEL - PRESUMABLY, ONE OF THESE VERY PIECES - IS DEPICTED IN THE PORTRAIT BY HENRI-PIERRE DANLOUX (1753-1809) OF PIERRE-VICTOR, BARON DE BESENVAL, SEATED IN THE SALON DE COMPAGNIE OF HIS HôTEL IN THE RUE DE GRENELLE IN PARIS, A PICTURE THAT WAS RECENTLY ACQUIRED BY THE NATIONAL GALLERY IN LONDON. EXCEPTIONALLY, THIS PAINTING SHOWS BESENVAL SURROUNDED BY MANY OF THE WORKS OF ART IN HIS POSSESSION, PORTRAYED JUST AS METICULOUSLY AS THE SITTER HIMSELF. THE VASE STANDS AT THE CORNER OF A MARBLE CHIMNEYPIECE, LEAVING NO DOUBT THAT ITS PAIR ADORNED THE OTHER CORNER. BESENVAL HAS COMBINED THESE VASES WITH SOME OTHERS TO FORM A GARNITURE. THEY ARE OF TWO WELL-KNOWN MODELS. THE LARGER ONE IS A EWER IN THE SHAPE OF A CELADON CARP WITH MOUNTS FORMED AS BULLRUSHES, OF WHICH A PAIR WAS RECENTLY SOLD IN THESE ROOMS FROM THE WILDENSTEIN COLLECTION, 14 DECEMBER 2005, LOT 45. THE SMALLER ONE IS A BAMBOO-SHAPED BRUSH POT, AGAIN OF CELADON, MOUNTED ON A SCROLLED BASE; A PAIR OF THESE IS IN THE VICTORIA AND ALBERT MUSEUM (D.F. LUNSINGH SCHEURLEER, CHINESISCHES UND JAPANISCHES PORZELLAN IN EUROPäISCHEN FASSUNGEN, BRUNSWICK, 1980, FIG. 238). INTERESTINGLY, THE MOUNTS ON BOTH THESE MODELS ARE FULLY ASYMMETRICAL, REPRESENTING AN EARLIER MOMENT IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE ROCOCO STYLE THAN THE PRESENT PAIR.
    IN 1795, FOUR YEARS AFTER BESENVAL'S DEATH, A LARGE PART OF HIS COLLECTION WAS SOLD AT AUCTION. THE CATALOGUE DESCRIBES MANY OF HIS PORCELAINS IN DETAIL, BUT THE VASES THAT WERE ON THE CHIMNEYPIECE IN HIS SALON DE COMPAGNIE IS LISTED SOMEWHAT SUMMARILY, ALBEIT ADMIRINGLY, AS:
    'UNE MAGNIFIQUE GARNITURE, COMPOSéE DE SEPT VASES DE DIFFERENTES FROMES, EN PORCELAINE, CéLADON DE TON CLAIR. CET ARTICLE, DISTINGUé DANS SON GENRE, EST DéCORé DE RICHES ORNEMENS EN BRONZE, D'ANCIEN GENRE, PARFAITEMENT CISELéS & DORéS D'OR MOULU (NO. 148)'.
    THIS IS THE ONLY INSTANCE OF THE WORD MAGNIFIQUE BEING USED IN THE SALE CATALOGUE TO DESCRIBE A PORCELAIN ITEM. THE GARNITURE OBVIOUSLY INCLUDED A CENTRAL VASE, WHICH DANLOUX DOES NOT SHOW IN HIS PICTURE, PRESUMABLY FOR ARTISTIC REASONS. THE QUALIFICATION ANCIEN GENRE MUST REFER TO THE ROCOCO STYLE OF THE MOUNTS WHICH BY 1795 WAS RATHER OLD-FASHIONED.

    THE COLLECTION OF THE BARON DE BESENVAL

    THE SWISS-BORN PIERRE-VICTOR, BARON DE BESENVAL (1722-1791), LIEUTENANT OF THE SWISS GUARDS, SERVED BOTH IN THE WAR OF THE AUSTRIAN SUCCESSION AND IN THE SEVEN YEARS' WAR. AN INTIMATE FRIEND OF QUEEN MARIE-ANTOINETTE, HE WAS A MEMBER OF HER INNER CIRCLE FROM THE 1770S ONWARDS. IN 1767 HE ACQUIRED THE HôTEL DE POMPADOUR IN THE RUE DE GRENELLE (TODAY NO. 142), WHERE HE RESIDED UNTIL HIS DEATH IN 1791 (SEE EXHIBITION CATALOGUE LE FAUBOURG SAINT-GERMAIN: LA RUE DE GRENELLE, GALERIE DE LA SEITA, PARIS 1980, PP. 24-27). ALTHOUGH HE HAD IMPORTANT CHANGES MADE TO ITS INTERIOR, INSTALLING FOR EXAMPLE A REMARKABLE STARKLY NEO-CLASSICAL BATHROOM TO THE DESIGNS OF ALEXANDRE BROGNIART IN 1782, HE WAS APPARENTLY CONTENT TO LEAVE THE ROCOCO CHIMNEYPIECE OF HIS SALON DE COMPAGNIE IN PLACE UNTIL THE END OF HIS LIFE, AND TO HAVE IT ADORNED WITH THE CELADON GARNITURE WHICH WAS EQUALLY ANCIEN GENRE. HE ASSEMBLED A FINE AND WELL-KNOWN COLLECTION OF WORKS OF ART WHICH AGAIN DID NOT SPEAK OF A PARTICULARLY AVANT-GARDE OR UNCOMPROMISING TASTE. HE HAD A CONVENTIONAL PREFERENCE FOR DUTCH 17TH CENTURY CABINET PICTURES VISIBLE IN THE DANLOUX PORTRAIT ARE WORKS BY CORNELIS VAN POELENBURG, WILLEM VAN DE VELDE, DAVID TENIERS, ADAM PYNACKER AND ALBERT CUYP MAY BE RECOGNIZED) AND OWNED SEVERAL PIECES OF BOULLE FURNITURE - ONE OF HIS LOW, GLAZED CABINETS CAN BE MADE OUT IN THE BACK OF HIS PORTRAIT. AMONG HIS GREATEST TREASURES WAS THE CELEBRATED COMMODE BY MARTIN CARLIN SET WITH PIETRE DURE PANELS, SOLD IN 1782 AFTER THE DEATH OF ITS FIRST OWNER, THE FAMOUS ACTRESS MADEMOISELLE LAGUERRE, AND NOW IN THE ROYAL COLLECTION (ALEXANDRE PRADèRE, LES éBéNISTES FRANçAIS DE LOUIS XIV à LA RéVOLUTION, PARIS 1989, FIG. 415), AS WELL AS A BEAUTIFUL NEO-CLASSICAL BAROMETER AND A CLOCK OF GILT AND PATINATED BRONZE, NOW IN THE WALLACE COLLECTION (HUGHES, THE WALLACE COLLECTION, CATALOGUE OF FURNITURE, LONDON 1996, NOS. 83 AND 101). THEY TESTIFY TO THE SAME FASTIDIOUS EYE AS THE PRESENT VASES, EXQUISITE COMPONENTS OF BESENVAL'S MAGNIFIQUE GARNITURE.

    TWO REGENCY COLLECTIONS: THE COWPER COLLECTION AT PANSHANGER AND THE DE GREY COLLECTION AT WREST PARK
    THIS PAIR OF VASES WAS ALMOST CERTAINLY ACQUIRED BY EITHER PETER, 5TH EARL COWPER (D. 1836) FOR PANSHANGER, OR BY THOMAS, 2ND EARL DE GREY FOR WREST PARK, ALSO IN HERTFORDSHIRE. THE LATTER'S COLLECTION OF FRENCH FURNITURE AND OBJETS WAS PARTIALLY INHERITED AT PANSHANGER. PANSHANGER WAS BUILT FROM 1807-20 BY THE ARCHITECT WILLIAM ATKINSON (D. 1839), THOMAS HOPE'S ARCHITECT AT DEEPDENE, SURREY. HE REBUILT REPTON'S HOUSE AT PANSHANGER IN THE PREVALENT ANTIQUARIAN TASTE. THE PICTURE COLLECTION, SUBSTANTIALLY THE CREATION OF THE COLLECTOR 3RD EARL, WHO HAD LIVED LARGELY AT FLORENCE, AND IMPROVED BY THE 5TH EARL, WAS MUCH ADMIRED BY WAAGEN ON HIS VISIT IN 1835.
    A PLAUSIBLE ALTERNATIVE SOURCE FOR THESE VASES IN THE PANSHANGER COLLECTION IS THOMAS PHILIP WEDDELL, 5TH BARON LUCAS, 3RD LORD GRANTHAM AND LATER 2ND EARL DE GREY (1741-1859) OF WREST PARK, HERTFORDSHIRE. A CELEBRATED FRANCOPHILE AND AMATEUR ARCHITECT, WHILE 'AT PARIS SOME YEARS BEFORE' DE GREY 'HAD PAID A GOOD DEAL OF ATTENTION TO SMALL PAVILIONS OR BUILDINGS IN GARDENS WITH A VIEW TO LODGES OR PARK GATES AT WREST' AND AS EARLY AS 1826 HE HAD DESIGNED NEW ENTRANCE LODGES ON THE ESTATE IN THE FRENCH MANNER. ON INHERITING WREST FROM HIS AUNT IN 1833, HOWEVER, DE GREY EMBARKED UPON A COMPREHENSIVE REBUILDING PROGRAMME. ACTING AS ARCHITECT HIMSELF, WITH THE ASSISTANCE OF JAMES CLEPHANE, HE RAZED GIACOMO LEONI'S EARLIER HOUSE TO THE GROUND, ALTHOUGH RETAINING THE CELEBRATED GARDEN PAVILION DESIGNED BY THOMAS ARCHER. ARMED WITH THE INSPIRATIONAL ARCHITECTURAL TREATISES OF J. COURTONNE, LE BLOND, LE ROUX, BLONDEL AND L'ASSURANCE HE PROCEEDED TO DESIGN AN EARLY LOUIS XV HOUSE IN THE ENGLISH COUNTRYSIDE, COMPLETED IN 1839 AT A COST OF £92,832 35 8D.

    AS THE LETTER TO HIS SON SO TELLINGLY REVEALS (BEDFORDSHIRE HISTORICAL RECORD SOCIETY, VOL. 59, NO. 1980, PP. 65-85), THE MANSION WAS A COMPREHENSIVE ESSAY IN FRANCOPHILE TASTE. THE TAPESTRY ROOM, FOR INSTANCE, WAS ORIGINALLY TO BE HUNG WITH THE GOBELINS SUITE FROM HIS HOUSE AT NEWBY, ACQUIRED BY HIS COUSIN WILLIAM WEDDELL IN PARIS CIRCA 1765-6, BEFORE PROTRACTED NEGOTIATIONS FOR LORD DUNDAS'S SIMILAR GOBELINS TAPESTRIES AT ARLINGTON STREET WERE PURSUED. THESE ULTIMATELY CAME TO NOTHING, AND IN THE END DE GREY COMMISSIONED A SUITE OF HANGINGS FROM THE BEAUVAIS FACTORY, AFTER HIS OWN DESIGNS, WHICH WERE ORDERED THROUGH MONSIEUR SALANDROUZE. THE BOUDOIR WAS PAINTED WITH MEDALLIONS 'OF WATTEAU-LIKE FIGURES, AS LIKE A SEVRES CUP AS WE COULD MAKE THEM', WHILE THE DOORS FOR THE SALOON RE-USED SOME 'FRENCH WAINSCOTTING BOUGHT FOR GEORGE IV FOR WINDSOR CASTLE BY MR WALSH PORTER'

    DE GREY'S GOUT WAS VERY MUCH IN THE VANGUARD OF THE REVIVAL OF INTEREST IN BUHL FURNITURE AND FRENCH TASTE PROMOTED BY GEORGE, PRINCE OF WALES, LATER GEORGE IV. IT IS, THEREFORE, EXTREMELY INTERESTING THAT DE GREY MENTIONS 'THE OTHER FOUR VASES I BOUGHT OFF BALDOCK' IN HIS LETTER. THE MARCHAND-MERCIER EDWARD HOLMES BALDOCK (D. 1854), 'PURVEYOR OF CHINA, EARTHENWARE AND GLASS' TO WILLIAM IV (1832-7) AND PURVEYOR OF CHINA TO QUEEN VICTORIA (1838-45), WAS RESPONSIBLE FOR THE FORMATION OF MANY OF THE GREATEST EARLY 19TH CENTURY COLLECTIONS OF FRENCH FURNITURE INCLUDING, OTHER THAN THAT OF GEORGE IV, THOSE OF THE DUKES OF BUCCLEUCH AND NORTHUMBERLAND, WILLIAM BECKFORD AND GEORGE BYNG. THE PREDOMINANCE OF BUHL FURNITURE IN THE DE GREY COLLECTIONS AT BOTH WREST AND NEWBY HALL, YORKSHIRE, MAY WELL POINT TO THE ASSISTANCE OF BALDOCK, AND HIS EXPERTISE IN ACQUIRING THE GREATEST MOUNTED PORCELAIN FOR HIS ENGLISH CLIENTS MAY ALSO SUGGEST HIS INVOLVEMENT IN THE AQUISITION OF THESE VASES.

    Special Notice

    No VAT will be charged on the hammer price, but VAT at 15% will be added to the buyer's premium which is invoiced on a VAT inclusive basis.


    Provenance

    ALMOST CERTAINLY PIERRE-VICTOR, BARON DE BESENVAL (1722-1791); HIS SALE, PARIS, 10 AUGUST 1795, AS PART OF LOT 148.
    EITHER ACQUIRED BY PETER, 5TH EARL COWPER (D. 1836), DIRECTLY FOR PANSHANGER, HERTFORDSHIRE, OR BY THOMAS, 2ND EARL DE GREY (D. 1859) FOR WREST PARK, HERTFORDSHIRE, AND SUBSEQUENTLY THROUGH DE GREY'S DAUGHTER TO PANSHANGER UNTIL CIRCA 1953 AND THEREAFTER BY DESCENT.


    Saleroom Notice

    THE ALREADY STRONG LIKELIHOOD OF THESE VASES BEING THOSE IN THE BESENVAL PORTRAIT IS FURTHER SUPPORTED BY THE EXISTENCE OF TWO PAIRS WITH THE SAME MOUNTS BUT VERY OBVIOUSLY DIFFERENT DECORATION ON THE PORCELAIN. A PAIR DECORATED WITH RELIEF KEY-PATTERN WAS IN WILLIAM BECKFORD'S COLLECTION AT FONTHILL, THAT OF HIS SON-IN-LAW THE DUKE OF HAMILTON AT HAMILTON PALACE, AND IS NOW IN THE METROPOLITAN MUSEUM OF ART IN NEW YORK (49.7.80-81). THEY WERE EXHIBITED IN WILLIAM BECKFORD: AN EYE FOR THE MAGNIFICENT, 2002, NO. 46.
    A THIRD PAIR OF VASES DISTINCTIVELY DECORATED WITH A PEACH IN RELIEF WERE ALSO AT FONTHILL AND WERE SUBSEQUENTLY IN THE BERTRAM CURRIE COLLECTION, FROM WHICH THEY WERE SOLD IN THESE ROOMS, 26 MARCH 1953, LOT 20.


    Pre-Lot Text

    THE PROPERTY OF A GENTLEMAN