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Specified lots (sold and unsold) marked with a fil… Read more PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE COLLECTION


The spherical glass bowl within a silvered bronze bamboo frame modelled with miniature turtles and surmounted by a pierced foliate rim supported by three bamboo trellis handles centred by Chinese-character shou roundels, raised on three dragon-headed (bixi) turtles carrying baby turtles on their backs, the pedestal with circular top flanked by two geometric bamboo-form handles and ornamented with four bixi, the columnar central support modelled as rope-tied bamboo flanked by climbing mythical dragons on three bejewelled elephant head feet, signed to the base 'F. BARBEDIENNE' and stamped 'BB', the original glass bowl with inclusions in the making, cracks and chips
56 ¼ in. (143 cm.) high, overall
22 ¾ in. (57.7 cm.) high; 23 1/3 in. (60 cm.) diameter, the aquarium
33 ½ in. (85 cm.) high; 29 ½ in. (75 cm.) wide; 24 ½ in. (62 cm.) deep, the stand
Private collection at the Cartier Mansion; New York, USA, by the late 1980s.
Sold from the Cartier Mansion [Property of a Private Foundation]; Sotheby’s, London, 27 September 1991, lot 23.
'Édouard Lièvre', Connaissance des Arts, N° 228, Paris, 2004, S. 28 ff.
A. McQueen, 'Power and Patronage : Empress Eugénie and the Musée chinois', Twenty-first-century Perspectives on Nineteenth-century Art, Newark, 2008, pp. 153-161.
P. Thiébaut, 'Contribution à une histoire du mobilier japonisant: Les Créations de l´Escalier de Cristal', Revue de l'art, 1989, N° 85, pp. 76-83.
R. Rodriguez, Optima Propagare Edouard Lièvre. Créateur de meubles & objets d'art, Paris, 2004.
Special notice

Specified lots (sold and unsold) marked with a filled square ( ¦ ) not collected from Christie’s, 8 King Street, London SW1Y 6QT by 5.00pm on the day of the sale will, at our option, be removed to Crozier Park Royal (details below). Christie’s will inform you if the lot has been sent offsite.If the lot is transferred to Crozier Park Royal, it will be available for collection from 12.00pm on the second business day following the sale.Please call Christie’s Client Service 24 hours in advance to book a collection time at Crozier Park Royal. All collections from Crozier Park Royal will be by pre-booked appointment only.Tel: +44 (0)20 7839 9060 Email: cscollectionsuk@christies.com.If the lot remains at Christie’s, 8 King Street, it will be available for collection on any working day (not weekends) from 9.00am to 5.00pm
Sale room notice
Requested for loan to the forthcoming exhibition The Origins. The rise and fall of Nature in the age of Darwin at the Musée d’Orsay, Paris, from 9 November 2020 to the 14 February 2021 and at the Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal from 16 March to 27 June 2021.

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Clementine Sinclair
Clementine Sinclair

Lot Essay

This aquarium is rare and superb example of the imaginative designs of Édouard Lièvre le style japonais et chinois and the refined technical prowess of the renowned bronzier Ferdinand Barbedienne.

Édouard Lièvre was one of the most talented draughtsmen and prolific industrial designers of the second half of the 19th century. He was archetypal of a new class of artists in the 19th century who rose above the craftsmen guild system to become industrial designers, free to fully express their genius across the arts. Like his illustrious contemporaries, such as Carrier-Belleuse, Constant Sévin, Froment-Meurice and Emile Reiber, Lièvre sought to express his art through multiple mediums – he learnt printing, drawing, gouache, metalwork, sculpture and ébénisterie. Embodying the industrial aspirations of his day, he utilised the most advanced technology to realise his designs, of which his ‘sino-japonais’ creations, as seen in the present lot, are the most renowned.
A polymath, as a child Lièvre was taught lithographic printing in Nancy before being apprenticed to a foundry where he learnt bronze casting and draughtsmanship. Arriving in Paris penniless, to earn a living he painted portraits and made models for manufacturer’s bronzes, and studied watercolour painting under Théodore Valerio (d. 1879). However, Lièvre soon found his true calling in designing works of art inspired by the Antiquarian past and the Far East. Often assisted by his brother Justin, he firstly produced works of art for his own apartment, seeking out the best craftsmen to execute his designs for bronzes, ceramics, fabrics and luxury furniture of great ingenuity and taste. Lièvre was then engaged by these craftsmen to design works for their firms, including ébéniste Paul Sormani, the silversmith Christofle, as well as marchands merciers such as Escalier de Cristal, and bronziers such as Maison Marnyhac, and France’s leading bronze fondeur Ferdinand Barbedienne, whose unprecedented technical abilities are evident in the present lot. Additionally, following in the tradition of marchands-merciers, Lièvre also began to extend his practice by designing furniture and objects for important private clients, which were then executed by these prestigious firms. These clients included Sarah Bernhardt (for whom he designed a monumental cheval mirror), the courtesan Louise-Emilie Valtesse de la Bigne (for whom he designed an impressive bed, now in the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, inv. DO 1981-19), and Édouard Detaille, the famous military artist (for whom Lièvre supplied a console d'apparat).

One of the most distinguished bronziers of the nineteenth century, Ferdinand Barbedienne rose from humble beginnings to prominence in era of great technical advancements. Born the son of farmer in the Calvados region of northwest France, Barbedienne moved to Paris at the age of twelve to apprentice as a papermaker and by his early 20’s he had become a successful wallpaper manufacturer in his own right. However, in 1838 Barbedienne was introduced to the inventor Achille Collas (1795-1859), a man who would change Barbedienne’s entire trajectory. Collas had developed a modern form of pantograph, which allowed for the scaled reproduction of sculptures in various sizes. Barbedienne, who had always been fascinated by the arts and the evolving technologies of the French industrial revolution, quickly changed tact and entered in a partnership with Collas, thus establishing the firm Collas & Barbedienne. In its infancy the company specialised in reproducing both contemporary and ancient sculpture, making fine art more accessible to the quickly mobilizing middle classes. By 1846 the workshop began to produce decorative objects in addition to the bronze reductions, becoming equipped to perform fine metal cutting, bronze mounting, marble work, turning, enamel decoration, and crystal engraving. The Barbedienne foundry continued its success throughout the nineteenth and into the twentieth century. After Ferdinand's death in 1892, the business was taken over by his nephew, Émile Gustave Leblanc (1849-1945), and later his great-nephew Jules Leblanc-Barbedienne (1882-1961), continuing production until 1953.

Towards the late 1870s Lièvre was commissioned to create an exuberant suite of neo-Japanese furniture for the renowned director of Bordeaux's ceramics manufactory Albert Vieillard (d. 1895), who had begun to develop a serious interest in the Far East which dovetailed with the new influx of goods from the recently opened trade between the West and Japan. The most celebrated piece of this suite commissioned by Vieillard is the Cabinet Japonais, now in the Musée d'Orsay (inv. OAO555), and it is from this moment onwards that we see engagement between Lièvre and the arts of Japan.
This loosening of trade restrictions began in 1854 when American Commodore Matthew Perry’s imposing fleet sailed into the Tokyo harbour demanding a trade treaty. By 1868 the shogun was overthrown, the Meiji Emperor restored, and Japan began to participate in the West’s International Exhibitions and promote its nation’s products. Fascinated by this influx of new aesthetic vocabulary of these Eastern cultures Western artisans began to study these Eastern forms and techniques found in cloisonné enamel, marquetry of shell and ivory, carved wood and patinated bronze, creating their own works by adopting and reinterpreting this newfound source of inspiration. In doing so these designers created a constructed view of the East, an amalgamation of Eastern and Western influences, which anticipated the organic forms of Art Nouveau and Aestheticism. Lièvre became one the preeminent tastemakers of this enthusiasm and style, coined ‘japonisme.

Only one other known example of this aquarium and stand is known, cast in gilt and patinated bronze and similarly signed F. BARBEDIENNE (see C. Payne, Paris Furniture: The luxury market of the 19th century, Paris, 2018, p. 435, illustrated). However, strong comparisons can be made to the following prestigious works by Barbedienne, almost certainly all in collaboration with Lièvre:
The present stand, with its symmetrical dragons flanking the bamboo shaft over the tête d’éléphant feet is identical in form a gilt-bronze pair surmounted Chinese Qing dynasty cloisonné enamel vases with Barbedienne mounts, sold 'Japonism'; Christie’s, Paris, 15 November 2018, lot 9 (€355,500, with premium).
The base of a jardinière stand known to have been designed by Lièvre and cast by Barbedienne in the collection of the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris (inv. 2004.187.1) contains the same turtle shell-backed dragons, known in Chinese mythology as bixi, as those mounted to the feet of the present aquarium bowl, with nearly identical snarling heads and smaller bixi clambering on the larger figures’ backs. The bowl to the same jardinière actually comprises an amalgamation of Japanese bronzes, including a dragon to the base which is believed to be either Japanese or an exact cast of a Japanese model by Barbedienne, further illustrating both how influence and intertwined the works of Lièvre and Barbedienne were those of the Far East. One might imagine that such a Japanese bronze model might have inspired Lièvre's designs.
Compare the tête d’éléphant feet with those supporting a chinoiserie bronze and enamel gueridon by Barbedienne, the enamel by Louis Constant Sevin, and the design quite possibly by Lièvre, at the musée Conde Chantilly, acquired in 1886 le duc d'Aumale and placed in the la grande singerie (inv. OA 325)

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