• 500 Years Decorative Arts Euro auction at Christies

    Sale 8009

    500 Years Decorative Arts Europe The European Connoisseur & Les Maitres Ebenistes-The Property of an Important Private European Collector

    8 December 2011, London, King Street

  • Lot 255


    FRENCH, CIRCA 1770-1790

    Price Realised  


    FRENCH, CIRCA 1770-1790
    Each with everted rim decorated with repeating foliate border, the body decorated with female masks, cornucopiae issuing flowers and with double lion mask ring handles, the circular socles decorated with acanthus and bell-flowers on square base; greenish brown surface
    20½ in. (52 cm.) high; 19 in. (48.3 cm.) diam. (2)

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    These beautifully executed bronze vases take as their point of departure the bronze and marble vases created to adorn the vast gardens of Versailles in the reign of Louis XIV. Versailles, which had been a modest hunting lodge in the early 17th century, was gradually transformed by the French monarch into the most magnificent palace in Europe with gardens adorned by walkways, pools, fountains, sculpture and ornamental vases.

    The programme created for the gardens was based upon classical mythology, and the vases therefore also followed classical forms such as the present example. They were decorated with friezes of classical figures, repeating borders, masks and foliage. Perhaps the closest among these Versailles vases to the present pair are the so-called 'Vases du Soleil' (Sun Vases) which were designed by Jules Hardouin-Mansart and delivered to Versailles in 1688 (illustrated in Pincas, op. cit., p. 130). They share the campana form, with rams head handles and a mask on each side framed by laurel branches.

    However, a number of details on the present bronzes suggest that they are probably not of the period of Louis XIV, but may, in fact, be a product of the Louis XIV artistic revival of the later 18th century. This revival was at least partly fuelled by the yearning of the French people during the difficult years leading up to the French Revolution for the glorious past under the Sun King. The combination of artistic motifs on the present vases is more complex than any of the vases at Versailles, with lion masks, cornucopiae issuing flowers, laurel branches and masks of classical nymphs. These nymphs, in particular, suggest a date for the vases in the years around 1770-1790; with their criss-crossing braids of hair they recall the neo-classical nymphs often seen to decorate candelabra of the period.


    Daniel Katz Gallery, London.
    Sotheby's, London, 6 December 2006, lot 29, where acquired by the present owner.

    Pre-Lot Text



    S. Thomassin, Recueil des Statues, Groupes, Fontaines, Termes, Vases et autres magnifiques Ornemens du Chateau & Parc de Versailles, The Hague, 1723.
    S. Pincas, Versailles - The History of the Gardens and their Sculpture, London, 1996.