A pair of French ormolu, champleve enamel and onyx urns
A pair of French ormolu, champleve enamel and onyx urns


A pair of French ormolu, champleve enamel and onyx urns
Designed by Eugène Cornu, Attributed to G. Viot & Cie., Paris, Circa 1860
Each with a turned rim above a tapering body, flanked by a pair of scrolled handles, the lower body with an enamel band, mounted with bosses and foliate scrolls, on a circular tapering socle, the socles stamped GK/64 and GK/DEPOSE
35 in. (89 cm.) high (2)

Lot Essay

During the second half of the 19th Century, due to the West's expanding colonies and subsequent trade in the East, new materials and a new decorative vocabulary were introduced which inspired productions that went beyond the standard repertoire of revival-styles. The public hunger for these goods is exemplified by this pair of luxuriously ornamented vases. Designed by the sculptor Eugène Cornu and probably manufactured by G. Viot and the Compagnie des Marbres Onyx d'Alegérie, their decoration reflects the taste fuelled by the exotic wares shown to the public at the Indian, Chinese, Turkish, and Egyptian pavilions of the International Exhibitions during the mid-19th century.
The partnership between the sculpteur Eugène Cornu (d. 1875) - who owned marble and onyx mines in Algeria - and Viot, created luxurious objects and furniture incorporating marble and decorated with enamel and bronze, as well as vases and fountains in marble. Onyx, known since antiquity and used by both the ancient Egyptians and Roman civilisations, was first shown in modern times at the 1862 International Exhibition in London to great acclaim, having only been re-discovered in 1849 in Oran, Algeria.

Cornu supplied his Algerian Onyx, through Viot, to other sculptors such as Charles-Henri-Joseph Cordier (d. 1905), celebrated for his images of Orientalist figures and busts, as well as Albert-Ernest Carrier-Belleuse (d. 1887).

A pair of similarly-modelled vases, presented on elephant-head stands, formed part of the extensive award winning collection shown by G. Viot and the Compagnie des Marbres Onyx d'Alegérie at the 1867 Exposition Universelle in Paris, for which they won the coveted Médaille d'Or. Attesting to the popularity of the design, it was also shown by Cornu at the South Kensington International Exhibition in 1871, where he is listed as both artist and manufacturer (The Art Journal, 1871, p. 73, illus.). The design was again reproduced in the Illustrated Catalogue, The Masterpieces of the International Exhibition/1876, p. 197 where it was listed under the collective exhibit of France.

A pair of vases of the same design by Cornu and Viot, with their stands, was sold by Sotheby's at Westbrook House, Surrey, the property of the late E. R. G. Billmeir, 19 September 1995, lot 29.

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