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A rare Napoleon III ormolu, silvered bronze, rouge and griotte marble gueridon
A rare Napoleon III ormolu, silvered bronze, rouge and griotte marble gueridon


A rare Napoleon III ormolu, silvered bronze, rouge and griotte marble gueridon
By Christofle & Cie., Paris, Circa 1870
Inset with a circular rouge marble top with griotte roundel to the centre, above a stylised rosette-studded egg-and-dart frieze applied with a pair of ribbon-bound reeded loop handles and draped with lion pelts, on fluted Ionic supports joined by an 'X'-shaped stretcher with inset griotte roundel to the centre, on rectangular tapering legs terminating in lion-paw and pad feet, inscribed twice CHRISTOFLE & CIE and numbered 180
28 3/8in. (72cm.) high; 21 5/8in. (55cm.) overall width
Possibly commissioned for the Champs-Elysées hôtel of the Marquise de Païva, circa 1870.

Lot Essay

In 1831, Charles Christofle (d. 1863) took over his brother-in-law's bijouterie-joaillerie 'Maison Calmette' and changed its name to 'Société Charles Christofle & Cie'. In 1842 and 1843, Christofle obtained for ten years the exclusive use of patents taken out by the English firm of Elkington & Co. (in 1840 and 1842) and Ruolz (in 1841 and 1842) for the galvanic process of gilding and silvering, known as argenterie electro-chimique. The following years saw Christofle embroiled in many lawsuits to preserve his rights until the patents entered the public domain. Pieces produced by this new process were first exhibited at the Exposition des produits de l'industrie française, Paris, in 1844. Cheaper to manufacture and, therefore, more affordable to own, Christofle's wares won instant acclaim, rewarding the firm with a gold medal and its founder with the Légion d'Honneur. Shortly afterwards, Charles Christofle was appointed Fournisseur officiel du Roi Louis-Philippe and, in 1855, Fournisseur de l'Empereur, supplying fine quality pieces, predominantly table-wares, for the various palaces and ministerial offices of Napoleon III. The firm participated with large stands in all of the major International exhibitions during the second half of the 19th century, frequently winning medals.

It is quite probable that this rare guéridon formed part of the furnishings supplied by Christofle for the Paris hôtel of the Marquise de Païva circa 1870. Born in humble circumstances somewhere in Russian Poland, Thérèse Lachmann left the Marquis de Païva only one day after their wedding, taking with her his name, decency and the outward appearance of fashionable respectability. Acquiring further wealth and influence through subsequent attachments, La Païva, as the Marquise became known, achieved her stated aim to have "le plus bel hôtel de Paris" when in 1866 she finally had her townhouse built at 25, Champs-Elysées and lavishly decorated by many of the era's most celebrated artists. Of the flatware, objects and small articles of furniture subsequently supplied by Christofle, several items by Rossigneux, one of the firm's chief designers, were based on the Roman Treasure of Hildesheim, whose fame since its discovery in 1868 would certainly not have escaped La Païva. Two of Rossigneux's pieces in particular are worth noting for motifs very similar to those found on this guéridon: the first, an end table with lamp and vase, incorporates an identical rosette-studded egg-and-dart frieze, whilst stylised Ionic capitals and tapering lion-paw feet are also common to each piece; the second item, a samovar, features the same lion-pelt motif and ribbon binding similar to that found on the handles and lower legs of the table. Interestingly, both end table and samovar featured on Christofle's stand at the 1871 London International Exhibition (for an illustration of these pieces, see H. Bouilhet, 150 Ans d'Orfèvrerie - Christofle, Silversmith Since 1830, Paris, 1981, pp. 128-129, nos. 1 and 4).

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