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AN IMPORTANT PAIR OF FRENCH EMPIRE SILVER-GILT DOUBLE SALT CELLARS
THE PROPERTY OF A GENTLEMAN 
AN IMPORTANT PAIR OF FRENCH EMPIRE SILVER-GILT DOUBLE SALT CELLARS

MARK OF MARTIN-GUILLAUME BIENNAIS, PARIS, 1798-1809; AFTER A DESIGN BY CHARLES PERCIER

Details
AN IMPORTANT PAIR OF FRENCH EMPIRE SILVER-GILT DOUBLE SALT CELLARS
MARK OF MARTIN-GUILLAUME BIENNAIS, PARIS, 1798-1809; AFTER A DESIGN BY CHARLES PERCIER
Each on lozenge-shaped base with six bud feet, chased with a palm leaf border and anthemion, supporting a central rectangular plinth on four seahorse feet and chased on alternating sides with a winged demifigure and a wild mask, the bowls formed as scallop shells on swan supports, the central handle formed as fully modeled figure of Aphrodite and dolphin, the base engraved with initial J and Royal Crown within laurel spray, inscribed under each base Biennais Orfèvre de LL.MM. Imperiales et Royales, marked under base, in each bowl, on plinth, and base of figure
9 in. (22.8 cm.) high; 77 oz. 10 dwt. (2415 gr.) (2)
Provenance
David David-Weill, Christie's, Geneva, 12 May 1987, lot 109
Literature
The Glory of the Goldsmith: Magnificent Gold and Silver From the Al-Tajir Collection, 1989, no. 16, p. 29
Exhibited
"The Glory of the Goldsmith: Magnificent Gold and Silver from the Al-Tajir Collection," Christie's, London, 1989, no. 16

Lot Essay

The crowned initial on these salt-cellars is most probably that of Joseph Bonaparte, King of Spain or Jerome Bonaparte, King of Westphalia, both brothers of Napoleon I. Charles Percier, designer of these salt cellars, was Imperial architect after 1799, and filled numerous commissions for Napoleon and his immediate family.

Percier's drawing for these salts is to be found in a volume of twenty plates designed for Biennais, now in the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris (E. Hussling, Dessins de l'Orfèvrerie de Percier, pl. 12). The figure of Aphrodite with a dolphin on the present salts was also used by Maison Odiot for salt cellars belonging to the extensive silver-gilt service made for Count Nikolai Demidoff (see A. Phillips and J. Sloane, English and French Silver-Gilt from the Collection of Audrey Love, 1997, fig. 45, pp. 144-147).

Charles Percier (1764-1838) and his collaborator, P.F.L. Fontaine, were the principal designers of the Empire style and Napoleon's official architects. The winner of the Prix de Rome in 1786, Percier left Paris for Italy where he and Fontaine made numerous architectural drawings, published in 1789. Percier's first commission in Paris was for the Salle de la Convention in the Tuilleries in 1793. Throughout the Empire, Percier designed interiors for former royal palaces, including Malmaison, for Napoleon's household, in a style suggestive of Imperial Rome.
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