• 500 Years: Decorative Arts Eur auction at Christies

    Sale 2203

    500 Years: Decorative Arts Europe Including Carpets from The Corcoran Gallery of Art

    24 November 2009, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 247

    A PAIR OF PARIS GOLD-GROUND PORCELAIN VASES

    CIRCA 1820

    Price Realised  

    Estimate

    A PAIR OF PARIS GOLD-GROUND PORCELAIN VASES
    Circa 1820
    Each oviform with everted mouth, the handles as winged herms issuing from a ribbon-laced quiver, the front painted in colors with scenes of the aftermath of battle named below, one titled LA CHARITE of a nun washing the feet of a soldier, the other titled L'AUMONE of a young mother giving alms to a beggar as her young son looks on, the reverse gilt with a Napoleonic eagle amidst soft clouds
    16 3/8 in. (41.6 cm.) high (2)


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    Lawyer, soldier, politician, diplomat and older brother of Napoleon Bonaparte, Joseph Bonaparte served France in a variety of diplomatic and political posts. His first major political posting was to the Kingdom of Naples and the two Sicilies where he served as military commander and then king for two years from 1806-1808. From there, his brother moved him to Spain, replacing him in Naples with his brother-in-law, Joachim Murat. As the King of Spain from 1808-1813, Joseph Bonaparte never gained the full support of the population. On his watch, the English won the Peninsular Wars and Bonaparte abdicated the throne.

    In 1815, after his Napoleon's defeat at Waterloo and exile to St Helena, Joseph Bonaparte moved to America, building an estate called Point Breeze in Bordentown, NJ. He lived there until 1832, his home the focal point of emigré society. Above the front door was carved his motto - Non ignara mali, miseris succurere which translates from the Latin as Not unaware of misfortune, I know to help the unfortunate. The decoration on the present vases - poignant scenes relating to War and to charitable works on one side and a gilt Napoleonic eagle on the other, its wings outspread in a manner associated more with an American eagle than with a French Imperial eagle, have a direct relation to Joseph Bonaparte's own life that supports the history of their ownership.

    The last eight years of his life were lived in Europe, and he died in Florence in 1844. After his death, the New Jersey estate was sold off and the contents of the home dispersed at auction held on the grounds of the mansion by a Mr. Thomas Birch Jr. An annotated copy of the auction catalogue notes the sale of lot 84, pair China Vases, to someone called Parker for $50 - a considerable sum at the time. This is the only reference to porcelain in the catalogue. In a sworn statement dated 30 November 1936, Elizabeth Harrington certifies that "One pair of Sevres urns (sic) purchased by Elizabeth L. Harrington were formerly owned by Joseph Napoleon Bonaparte (Ex-King of Spain) and bear his crest, purchased in 1845 at Bordentown, New Jersey". As only 61 years had elapsed since the estate sale, it is very possible that she purchased the vases either from Parker or from someone who had acquired them from Parker. They descended through her family until their acquisition by the present owners.

    Provenance

    Joseph Bonaparte, comte de Survilliers (1768-1844), 'Point Breeze', Bordentown, NJ; Thomas Birch Jr. auction, 17-18 September 1845, lot 84 ($50 to Parker).
    Acquired by Elizabeth Harrington, documented as in her possession by 30 November 1936 as per a notarized letter of that date.
    By descent to her son, Willis F. Harrington Jr.
    By descent to his wife, Janet Harrington (1916-2008).


    Pre-Lot Text

    THE JOSEPH BONAPARTE VASES