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The circular pink granite top inlaid with a cross in square marble specimens, set within a tooled surround with anthemion decorated frieze, above four eagles with spread wings surmounting acanthus-wrapped monopodia supports joined by foliate scrolled stretchers and terminating in paw feet, on a concave-sided plinth base with ball feet
37 in. (94 cm.) high; 38 ¼ in. (98.5 cm.) diameter
Possibly commissioned in 1814 by Pope Pius VII for Alexander I of Russia.
Sold by the Soviet Union at auction with Rudolph Lepke, Berlin, 6 November 1928, lot 77: described as 'Empiretisch, rund, aus vergoldeter Bronze und Platte aus schwarz-rot-grau gesprenkeltem Granit mit eingelegtem Kreuz aus farbigen Marmorplättchen. Vier von Großen Adlern bekrönte Füße mit Löwentatzen auf einer vierseitigen Sockelplatte stehend, tragen die Platte deren Dickseite von Palmetten in Relief umzogen ist, Durchm. 100, H. 94 cm.'
Acquired from Jansen, Paris.
G. Babin, 'La Collection Wallace de Paris’, L’Illustration, 20 June 1914, pp. 551-554.
G. Babin, 'La Collection Wallace de Paris – suite', L’Illustration, 27 June 1914, pp. 573-575.
E. Colle, A. Griseri, R. Valeriani, Bronzi Decorativi in Italia, Milan, 2001, p. 66.
E. Dumonthier, Les Tables, style Louis XVI et Premier Empire, 1924.
P. Hughes, Wallace catalogue of furniture, vol. III, p. 1545.
E. Hessling, Empire-Möbel, Berlin, 1910.
D. Ledoux-Lebard, 'Un present de Leon XII a Charles X’, Antologia di belle arti, 1977, no. 2, pp. 212-216.
A.F. Morris, 'Sir John Murray Scott’s Collection in the rue Laffitte’, The Connoisseur, Part I, August 1910, pp. 231-240 and Part 2, April 1911, pp. 215-222.
G. Seligmann, Merchants of Art, New York, 1961.
J. Wilton-Ely, Giovanni Battista Piranesi, San Francisco, 1994, plates 916 and 918.
1912 inventory for 2 rue Laffitte, Paris.

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Lot Essay

This exceptional guéridon , with its imposing eagle-headed monopodia supports superbly modelled, cast and chased, is part of a very small group of such tables to have been made in Rome in the early 19th century. Quite possibly commissioned by Pope Pius VII, it is of the same design as a guéridon with a micro mosaic top that was given to Charles X and which is now at Versailles and another such guéridon , that was last recorded in the collection of Sir John Murray-Scott and which had been almost certainly part of the celebrated collection of Sir Richard Wallace.

A closely related guéridon but with micromosaic top depicting scenes from the 'le bouclier d’Achille’, designed by the director of the Vatican mosaic workshops, Michael Köck, is in the Grand Trianon, Versailles (NT396C; Dumonthier, op. cit., pl. 50; Hessling, op. cit., pl. XXXIX). The ormolu base is virtually identical to the present example with the exception of slight differences to the chased volutes that ornament the feet. It has been described by Angela Griseri as one of the most beautiful examples of Roman neoclassical furniture, and almost certainly derives from antiquity (Colle, Griseri, Valeriani, op. cit., p. 66). In 1762 Piranesi illustrated a closely related marble tripod with winged griffons from the Villa Albani and a marble altar in the form of a tripod vase with similar ornamentation in his Vasi, candelabra, cippi, sarcophagi (Wilton-Ely, op. cit., pl. 916 and 918).

The ormolu base of the guéridon at Versailles, and almost certainly that of the present example is by Wilhelm Hopfgarten (d. 1860) and Benjamin Ludwig Jollage (d. 1837), Prussian bronziers working as fondeurs in Rome from circa 1805, with a workshop at no. 95 via dei Due Macelli. Hopfgarten and Jollage were known throughout the major European capitals for their accurate reduced renditions of antique Roman monuments. These were highly prized as souvenirs, to the extent that contemporary sculptors resident in Rome like Bertel Thorvaldsen (d. 1838) and Antonio Canova (d. 1822) were encouraged to submit their designs to the craftsmen for reproduction. In 1809, Hopfgarten and Jollage worked on a bronze reduction of Canova’s marble statue of Napoleon I, and at the Capitoline Exhibition of Roman Arts and Industry of 1810 exhibited two ormolu tripods with lapis lazuli. Their workshop was also renowned for restoring bronze antiquities; in 1820, the partnership was entrusted with the renovation of the bronze doors of St. Paul’s, Rome, damaged by flooding of the Tiber. The Diario di Roma reported on 2nd August 1820 that the renovation was performed with such diligence that it was impossible to distinguish the ancient work from the new. The fondeurs were also instrumental in the modernization of the Quirinal.

The micromosaic top of the Grand Trianon guéridon was supplied by the Vatican workshops, and the guéridon commissioned by Pope Leo XII (d. 1829) as a gift to Charles X (d. 1836) in recognition of his intervention and 'protection accordée par les escadres du Roi au commerce Pontifical sur les côtes Barbarie’ (ibid.). It was delivered to the King in 1826 at Saint Cloud, and subsequently recorded in an 1828 inventory for the palais in the Third Salon or Salon de Jeux where it was valued at 60.500 francs. In 1840, Hopfgarten undertook yet another commission for the pontiff, producing table bases with lion supports intended as a gift for the viceroy of Egypt. In 1875, the guéridon was transferred to the Garde Meuble in the Louvre, and in 1882 sent to Versailles to the apartments of Napoleon I at the Grand Trianon. In 1966, it was exhibited in the Salle de l’attique Nord.

Intriguingly, the history of the guéridon at Versailles is associated with a persistent tradition that may be relevant to the provenance of the present example. By repute, the guéridon was commissioned in 1814 as a gift from Pope Pius VII (d. 1823) to Alexander I of Russia (d. 1825), in recognition of the latter’s piety. The guéridon was, however, not delivered, and supposedly remained at the Vatican for over ten years until it was gifted to Charles X (ibid., p. 214). It is therefore conceivable that the 1814 guéridon is in fact the present guéridon, and that it was delivered as intended in 1814 to Russia, tying up the subsequent history of the present guéridon, which was sold by the Soviet government at Lepke, Berlin, in 1928. Such a provenance would also support the theory that the intriguing granite top that is inlaid with a cross might be an earlier relic that was chosen specifically with the recipient of this papal present in mind.

A further very closely related guéridon with granite top was formerly in the collection of Sir John Murray-Scott (d. 1912) at 2 rue Laffitte, Paris, recorded in the Antichambre in the 1912 inventory as 'Guéridon rond en bronze doré à quatre pieds formés d'aigles aux ailes éployées supportant la tablette en granit, prisé mille cinq cents francs', and valued at 1.500 francs. It had been bequeathed to him in 1897 by Lady Julie Wallace, the widow of Sir Richard Wallace, 1st Baronet (d. 1890), and was almost certainly previously in the latter's collection in Paris although it does not appear in the 1871 inventory of his Parisian house, nor at the château Bagatelle (illus. G. Babin, 'La Collection Wallace de Paris’, L’Illustration, 27 June 1914, p. 573). The guéridon is described in L’Illustration as 'voisine avec une cheminée de marbre qui provident, avec sa garniture, du château de Maisons-Laffitte, qu’on s’efforce, a grand frais de remeubler’ (ibid.). From 1809-1818, this château was owned by the duchesse de Montebello, the widow of the Marechal Landes, one of Napoleon’s principal officers, and a participant in the late 18th century Italian campaign. The château was sold in 1809 to the financier and politician, Jacques Laffitte (d. 1844). The latter had a mansion at no. 27 rue Laffitte, which was named after him in December 1830. Intriguingly, the Wallace guéridon 'disappears’ after 1914, although it most likely was part of the inherited furniture remaining at the rue Laffitte apartment bequeathed by Sir Murray-Scott to his intimate friend, Victoria, Lady Sackville of Knole, which was subsequently sold en bloc to the Parisian art dealer, Jacques Seligmann; unfortunately the loss of Messrs. Seligmann’s papers during the 1939-45 war inhibits further investigation.
Another related guéridon, though lacking its stretchers, was sold at Château de Gaillard, Monaco, 4 August, 1934, lot 1138. This may be the same guéridon, that was sold in Monaco salles de ventes Victoria, 10 May 2006, but smaller in height at 66 cm, and possibly a later version.

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