• Christies auction house James Christie logo

    Sale 7574

    Thomas Hope & The Neoclassical Vision & The Collector of Collections

    24 April 2008, London, King Street

  • Lot 16

    AN EMPIRE ORMOLU, PATINATED BRONZE, ROUGE GRIOTTE AND MAHOGANY ENCRIER

    EARLY 19TH CENTURY

    Price Realised  

    AN EMPIRE ORMOLU, PATINATED BRONZE, ROUGE GRIOTTE AND MAHOGANY ENCRIER
    EARLY 19TH CENTURY
    With a kneeling classically-draped maiden holding two vine-cast cornucopiae issuing a removable inkwell and sander, flanking an oval dish, flanked by vase-shaped nozzles, above a rectangular stepped base fitted with a mahogany-lined drawer, on bun feet
    9½ in. (24 cm.) high; 12½ in. (31 cm.) wide; 7½ in. (19 cm.) deep


    Contact Client Service
    • info@christies.com

    • New York +1 212 636 2000

    • London +44 (0)20 7839 9060

    • Hong Kong +852 2760 1766

    • Shanghai +86 21 6355 1766

    A vestal kneels beside the libation patera, displayed on the stepped 'altar' plinth of this encrier and bears cornucopiae. Appropriate to an inkstand, these vine-wreathed 'horns of abundance' recall the fertility deities, Bacchus and Ceres and thus symbolise the presence of Venus, goddess of Love (inspired by Terence's celebrated quotation from his play 'The Eunuch': 'Sine Cerere et Baccho friget Venus').

    Related bronze sculptures were manufactured in Rome in the late 18th Century by silversmiths and bronze manufacturers such as Giuseppe Valadier (d. 1839) for service as chimneypiece garnitures etc. Moreover, this figure represents the romantic interest in Egyptian culture encouraged by Napoleon's 1790s Egyptian campaign and later by its history published in Dominique Vivant Denon's Voyage dans la Basse et la Haute Egypte, 1802. The taste for writing-table garnitures in the antique or Egyptian manner was encouraged around 1800 by leading marchands merciers and furniture dealers of Paris and London, and also by connoisseurs such as Thomas Hope (d. 1842), who illustrated the interiors of his London mansion museum in Household Furniture and Interior Dectoration, 1807. Hope expressed particular admiration for the work of the French 'bronze and ormolie [sic] manufacturer', Alexis Decaix (d. 1811) of Rupert Street, who was also patronised by George, Prince of Wales, later George IV. In 1803 Decaix supplied a variant of the present model, featuring a marble-figured wood plinth with a concealed drawer fronted by an Egyptian lioness mask, to the Panton Street goldsmith Robert Garrard (d. 1818), who recorded it in his ledger as 'An inkstand of Yew Tree with female figure in bronze holding cornucopia' (M. Levy, 'Taking up the Pen', Country Life, 23 April 1992, pp. 60-62).

    A closely related model, formerly in the collections of the Earls of Elgin, acquired around 1804, was sold by the 11th Earl of Elgin and 15th Earl of Kincardine, Sotheby's, London, 13 June 1992, lot 307; a further example was sold anonymously, Christie's, Paris, 24 June 2003, lot 336 (EUR 14,100 including premium). A yew-wood-plinthed model with rhyton, attributed to Alexis Decaix and possibly supplied by Dupasquier was sold from the Humphrey Whitbread Collection, Christie's, London, 5 April 2001, lot 384 (£52,875).

    Special Notice

    VAT rate of 5% is payable on hammer price and at 15% on the buyer's premium