This decorative bronze vase garniture comprises plinth-supported water-urns whose 'tear-drop' form recalls the Louvre Museum's Pompeian 'vase lacrimale'. Following the latter's acquisition in the 1780s by the antiquarian Baron Dominique Vivant Denon (d.1825), Sèvres porcelain versions entitled 'Vases lacrimales Beau bleu montés en bronze' were presented by Louis XVI to the Russian court and are now at Pavlovsk Palace (P. Emmes, 'Un Principe Russo a Sèvres', Antiques, September 1991, p.126-30). The present vases' golden enrichments and fountain ornament evoke love's triumph with the water-birth of Venus. The poetry deity Apollo's urn-guarding griffins feature in the ribbons that tie their caryatic figure handles, which comprise the water-deity Neptune's youthful triton attendants gathering the urns' water-fountain in shells. The urns, set in reeded water, are further enriched in bas-relief with Neptune's reed-crowned heads accompanying Venus' embowed dolphins as they spout water into fountain tazze. The stepped and similarly decorated plinths display tazze that provide water for the swans, which are sacred to both Apollo and Venus. Related bronze 'lacrimale' urns attributed to the Parisian bronzier et doreur of rue Colbert, Gérard Claude Galle (d.1846) are discussed in H. Ottomeyer/P. Pröschel et al., Vergoldete Bronzen, Munich, 1986, vol. I, fig. 5.12.8.
These vases belong to a small group made in St. Petersburg circa 1801-1805. They are all thought to have been made by the most celebrated of Russian bronziers Friedrich Bergenfeldt after the design executed in 1801 by Andrei Voronikhin (illustrated, A. Kuchumov, Russian Decorative Art in the Collection of the Pavlosk Palace Museum, 1981, p.323).
ANDREI VORONIKHIN (1759-1814)
Voronikhin was born into a family of serfs working on the estates of Count Stroganoff. He trained in painting in the workshop of Gabriel Yushkova, where he drew the attention of the Count who sent him to train in Moscow. Voronikhin was liberated in 1785 and for the next several years studied in France and Switzerland. Count Stroganoff was one of Voronikhin's most important patrons; he commissioned him to finish the interiors of the Stroganoff Palace on the Nevskky Prospect, as well as other residences. He also built the Kazan Cathedral and worked with Brenna at Pavlosk.
FRIEDRICH BERGENFELDT (1768-1822)
Bergenfeldt was born in Westphalia and like many other German craftsmen, he moved to Russia in the 1790s. He worked in the workshop of the bronzier Yan Aoustin, and also with Charles Dreyer, followed by a period of time spent in Paris. Returning to Russia in 1801 he established his own workshop on the Fontanka Embankment. His advertisement in the local newspaper announced the sale of all manner of 'bronze ornaments, such as vases, candleabra, cassolettes, girandoles, chandeliers, veilleuses etc. in the antique taste and of a quality equal to that of French bronzes.'
Both Voronikhin and Bergenfeldt appear to have been influenced by the work of Claude Galle. The Voronikhin design closely resembles a vase made by Galle for Schloss Ludwigsburg in 1800 (reproduced, Ottomeyer & Proschel, Vergoldete Bronzen, Vol 1. Munich, 1986, p.365, fig. 5.12.11). A identical pair of vases on unmounted griotte marble bases and with slight variations in the mounts decorating the socle, were in the collection of Count Stroganoff, sold by order of the Russian Government, Rudolph Lepke, Berlin, 12-13 May, 1931, lots 137-138. The present pair also relate to a larger single vase signed and dated F. Bergenfeldt à St. Petersberg 1802. This vase previously sold from a private collection, Christie's New York, 26 October, 2001, lot 298, was sold Sotheby's New York, 24 May 2007, lot 283. A pair of almost identical vases to the present pair, albeit with rouge griotte marble bases, were sold from the Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Stephen C. Hilbert, Sotheby's New York, 24 May 2007, lot 65. A pair of similar vases formerly in the collections of the Counts Bobrinski are illustrated, I. Sychev, 'Friedrich Bergenfeldt, an Unknown Russian Bronzier,' Russian Jeweler, No.1. 1998, p.31. A further pair are in the Palazzo Pitti, Florence, illustrated, M.Chiarini & S. Padovani, Gli Appatamenti Reali di Palazzi Pitti, Florence, 1993, p. 229, fig. II. 36.