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These lots have been imported from outside the EU … Read more The Machault d’Arnouville flambé vase


The vase mounted with vigorously scrolling flared neck and paired acanthus handles, the base cast with scrolling acanthus, rocaille, shells and flowerheads, with fragmentary blue-bordered paper label to the inside of the neck inscribed …6 / ..le…

20 ¼ in. (51.5 cm.) high; 11 7/8 in. (30 cm.) wide; 10 1/8 in. (25.5 cm.) deep
Almost certainly Jean-Baptiste de Machault d'Arnouville (1701-1794), Contrôleur Général des Finances, Garde des Sceaux, Secrétaire d'Etat à la Marine and by descent to his son
Charles-Henri-Louis de Machault d'Arnouville (1747-1830), Maréchal de Camp, who by his marriage in 1773 to Angélique de Baussan acquired the château de Thoiry;
Almost certainly by descent to Henriette de Machault d'Arnouville (1808-1864) who in 1826 married Léonce Melchior, Marquis de Vogüé (1805-1877), hôtel de Vogüé on rue Fabert, Paris and by descent to
Solange de Vogüé, wife of Antoine, Comte de la Panouse, château de Thoiry; sold Sotheby’s, Monaco, 11 February 1979, lot 232a.

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These lots have been imported from outside the EU for sale using a Temporary Import regime. Import VAT is payable (at 5%) on the Hammer price. VAT is also payable (at 20%) on the buyer’s Premium on a VAT inclusive basis. When a buyer of such a lot has registered an EU address but wishes to export the lot or complete the import into another EU country, he must advise Christie's immediately after the auction.

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Amelia Walker
Amelia Walker

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Lot Essay

This spectacular vase is a masterpiece of the art of mounting porcelain perfected by marchands-merciers such as Lazare Duvaux and Thomas-Joachim Hébert in the 1740s and 1750s. It unites superbly cast and chased gilt-bronzes attributed to the chief designer and sculpteur at Sèvres Jean-Claude Chambellan Duplessis, with a rare and stunning vase of flambé-glazed Chinese porcelain. It is likely to have been owned by Jean Baptiste de Machault d’Arnouville, one of the most powerful men in France under Louis XV and a confidante of Madame de Pompadour, who was a passionate collector of porcelain and lacquer.

Jean-Baptiste de Machault d'Arnouville (1701-1794), a favourite minister of Louis XV, was appointed Contrôleur Général des Finances on 29 November 1750 to 1757 and as a result was one of the most powerful men at the French court. He was close friend of Madame du Pompadour, who shared his passion for collecting decorative arts, and whom she often consulted before making purchases. As Contrôleur Général he was responsible for the administration of the Royal Porcelain Factory at Vincennes, which relocated to Sèvres in 1756, and took particular interest in the development of new techniques, the sourcing of new models imported from the East, and the bronziers linked to the factory, who created gilt-bronze mounts to adorn specific models of vases. Such was his interest that for several years it was recorded that he received a special annual present from the factory (V. Pruchniki, Arnouville, Le château des Machault au XVIIIè siècle, Paris, 2013, p. 77.)

In 1750 Machault inherited land from his father, and inspired by the duc de Saint-Simon’s château La Ferté-Vidame, he employed Pierre Contant d’Ivry (1698-1777), Architecte du Roi, to create château d’Arnouville with an impressive budget of four million livres. His impeccable taste and interest led him to buy masterpieces from some of the greatest craftsmen of the day: lacquer furniture by BVRB, bronzes by Susini, silver by François-Thomas-Germain and an armoire which featured in the 1736 inventory of the marchand-ébéniste Noël Gérard, which is now at Versailles. But it is for his important collection of ormolu-mounted European and Chinese porcelain that he is perhaps best known, several stunning examples of which were published by Pruchnicki (ibid., pp. 45-49).

It is likely that he acquired the present vase at the height of this project, circa 1755, to furnish his splendid new home. The inventories taken at the end of the Revolution have quite succinct descriptions but it is fascinating to find the following entry listed in the chambre du ministre: un vase de porcelaine des Indes jaspée bleue et blanc avec anses, gouleau et pieds de bronze doré d’or moulu portant dix sept pouces de haut. The language used to describe colours and glazes has evolved over the centuries and it is possible that the ‘Indes jaspee bleue’ is an 18th-century reference to the fact that the flambé glaze has the appearance of jasper. An alternative origin for the vase and a further indication of the similar tastes of Machault and Madame de Pompadour is an intriguing entry in the Livre-Journal of Lazare Duvaux for December 1753 - 1607. Mme. la Marq. de pompadour: Deux grands vases de porcleaine jaspée de rouge & bleu, montés en bronze ciselé & doré d’or moulu, 3,600 l. – Un autre vase, même porcelaine, monté sur quatre pieds & deux anses en bronze doré d’or moulu, le dessus orné de fleurs, 720 l. (L. Courajod, Livre-Journal de Lazare Duvaux, Marchand-Bijoutier Ordinaire du Roy, 1748-1758, Paris, 1873, vol. II, no. 1607). The description and sheer cost of these vases clearly represent an important and luxurious commission and could conceivably indicate that the present vase was a gift from la Favorite to Machault.

Machault withdrew from political life in 1757, following his dispute with Madame du Pompadour, and whilst his official revenues ceased the collection was still added to after his retirement – he continued to receive annual gifts from Sèvres until 1768. A fascinating insight into royal patronage is that he only received the Gobelins tapestries accorded to him by Louis XV as the Garde des Sceaux in 1783, more than a quarter of a century after his retirement (ibid., pp. 38-82).

Much of Machault’s collection was inherited by his granddaughter, Henriette Marie Maguerite de Machault d’ Arnouville (1808-1864), who also inherited château de Thoiry from her mother Angélique Baussan (1752-1813). Rather than house her collection at château de Thoiry she and her husband Léonce Melchior, Marquis de Vogüé (1805-1877) instead chose to build hôtel de Vogüé on rue Fabert, Paris, completed in 1868. Although the exterior was relatively modest, the interiors were incredibly luxurious and conceived in the latest fashion. It is almost certain that the present vase, proudly displayed on the far left console table in the Salon Seine, was amongst the items Henriette inherited from her paternal grandfather.

Henriette’s great-granddaughter Solange de Vogüé (1920-2003), married Antoine, Comte de la Panouse (1914-2006) in 1942. The couple resided at château de Thoiry, from where the present vase was sold at Sotheby’s, Monaco, 11 February 1979, lot 232a.

This rare example of a flambé glazed vase, from either the Yongzheng (1722-1735) or Qianlong reigns (1735-1799) demonstrates the imperial demand for vibrant new ceramic glaze colours. It was almost certainly developed under the supervision of the renowned kiln director Tang Ying (1682-1756), who was sent by the Imperial Household to the porcelain capital Jingdezhen in 1728, and officially appointed Director of the Kilns in 1736.
Although clearly inspired by the splashed purple and blue glazes of Jun wares of the Jin (265-420) and Song (960-1279) dynasties, the process of applying multiple glazes to one vessel to achieve the flambé glaze was a far more sophisticated technique. Song dynasty potters only used a single glaze with copper applied to the surface in places, but for the flambé glaze several different glazes with different consistencies were used, but it was essential that all of these glazes would fire at the same temperature. The complicated scientific nature of the process required tenacity and innovation in order to discover the perfect combination of glaze consistency, tone and firing time. The vivid, rich beauty of the present vase is testament to the triumph of their labour and ingenuity.

Duplessis' career was illustrious and he is recorded as a sculptor, ceramics modeller, goldsmith, and bronzier working in the rocaille manner. Despite the fact that Duplessis is today recognised as one of the most talented and influential designers and bronziers of his day there has not yet been any serious study of his oeuvre and only a few pieces can be firmly attributed to him, including a pair of ormolu braziers commissioned by Jean-Baptiste Machault d'Arnouville for royal presentation in 1742 to the Ambassador of Turkey; one of which is today at the Topkapi Palace Museum, Istanbul, demonstrating how early in his career Machault developed close links with Duplessis. With limited documented examples or indeed patterns available, attention has turned to designs for porcelain during the period 1748 to 1774, when Duplessis was artistic director at Vincennes and its successor, Sèvres. Of particular interest are the balustre rocaille vases made in soft and hard paste porcelain from circa 1750, which were named after him – 'Vase Duplessis'. A drawing of this design survives in the Sèvres archive (L.H. Roth, C. Le Corbeiller, French Eighteenth-Century Porcelain at the Wadsworth Atheneum; The J. Pierpont Morgan Collection, p. 105, fig. 59-1). Examples of these porcelain vases are at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (24.214.5) and the Victoria & Albert Museum, London (C.357-1909). A pair in the Indianapolis Museum of Art (1993.63) is applied with gilt-bronze mounts. In the early 1990s, the art historian Ted Dell, extrapolating from Duplessis' vases for Vincennes and Sèvres, recognised Duplessis' craftsmanship in the bold Louis XV gilt-bronze mounts of a pair of dark blue Chinese porcelain vases in the Frick Collection (15.8.43-44) and tentatively suggested that the latter were part of a core group with closely comparable gilt-bronze mounts, circa 1755-60, that appear to be made by the same hand (T. Dell, The Frick Collection, Furniture and Gilt Bronzes, vol. VI, Princeton, 1992, pp. 309-314).

The present example falls into this group, demonstrating many of the recognisable characteristics of Duplessis' style, such as the homogenous unity of form and decoration, suggesting that the mounts were made specifically for the vase, and the substantial and symmetrical acanthus scroll mounts of the highest quality illustrate the superb modelling and chasing for which Duplessis is renowned. Another notable feature is the number of different surface finishes, with matt, semi-matt and burnished, as well as a variety of particularly naturalistic treatments that are used to intensify shadows and light to create a naturalistic and fluid effect (G. Sadde, 'Jean-Claude Duplessis, la liberté du style rocaille', L'Estampille-L'Objet d'Art, no. 392, June 2004, pp. 42-51).

The boldly scrolling acanthus mounts that wrap around the body of this vase are identical to those found on a magnificent pair of hexagonal baluster-shaped blue Chinese porcelain bottle-necked vases in the Royal Collection. Formerly in the Entrance Hall at Brighton Pavilion, they were recorded in the 1829 Inventory as, 'A pair of Hexagon blue ground jars, mounted in very fine scroll leaf lips, handles and bases of ormolu, one foot seven and a half inches' (RCIN 262), and were transferred to Buckingham Palace in March 1847. This royal pair must have been acquired by the Prince Regent, later King George IV, who as a passionate connoisseur and collector significantly added to the Royal Collection of ormolu-mounted oriental porcelain. Both these and another large hard-paste porcelain flower vase at Windsor Castle with closely-related ormolu mounts, have been attributed to Duplessis. The single vase is documented to have been sold in 1751 by the marchand-mercier, Lazare Duvaux to Madame de Pompadour (ibid., p. 46).

Duplessis owed his position and success to a number of influential patrons, including the well-connected Victor-Amédée de Savoie, Prince de Carignan, as well as Marc-René de Voyer de Paulmy d'Argenson, marquis de Voyer. While Duplessis held no official title and never received his maîtrise, he was widely recognised as such due to the protection and accessibility to royal circles that patronage provided. By 1758 he was listed as Orfèvre du Roi in the Sèvres account books. In his early career as a bronzier, Duplessis worked through the intermediary of marchands-merciers, who specialised in ormolu-mounted objects employing the services of a bronzier as required. A number of entries in the Livre-journal of the marchand-mercier Lazare Duvaux show that Duplessis was regularly engaged to provide mounts for Chinese porcelain referred to as celadon in the day books for the Marquis de Voyer, Monsieur Gaignat and Madame de Pompadour (L. Courajod, Livre-Journal de Lazare Duvaux, Marchand-Bijoutier Ordinaire du Roy, 1748-1758, Paris, 1873, tome II, nos. 601, 1713 and 1810). One entry for the Marquis de Voyer describes 'Deux gros vases de porcelain celadon, montées par Duplessis en bronze doré d'or moulu' at a cost of 3,000 l., a vast sum that illustrates the importance of the commission. After several years his reputation had spread and aristocratic clients such as Augustin Blondel de Gagny and the duc de Chaulnes approached him directly. As an independent bronzier, Duplessis would not only have supplied the mounts but also the porcelain. To replenish his stock of oriental porcelain he frequented the Parisian salerooms, acquiring in 1767 from the collection of Jean de Jullienne 'pots pourris de porcelain d'ancien japon' and 'un grand vase de porcelain de Chine', the total bill coming to 3800 livres.

The very distinctive scrolling foliate mounts permit this vase to be seen as one of a small group of vases, with virtually identical mounts:

-The aforementioned vases in the Royal Collection
- A Clair-de-lune porcelain vase sold by the order of the executors of the late 7th Earl of Harewood, K.B.E, Christie’s, London, 5 July 2012, lot 29 for £1,161,250.
-Another from the same collection was sold Christie’s, London, 1 July 1965, lot 49, then with Roesenberg & Steibel, New York (F.J.B Watson, Mounted Oriental Porcelain, Washington D.C., 1986, no. 29).
-A garniture of three vases with almost identical mounts was formerly in the Collection of Léon Levy, sold Sotheby's, Paris, 2 October 2008, lot 37.
-Another pair, possibly supplied by the London dealer, E.H. Baldock of Hanway Street, is in the Collection of the Duke of Buccleuch at Bowhill ('Bowhill', Country Life, 19 June 1975, p. 1620, fig. 5).
-Other comparable vases are at the Musée Nissim de Camondo, and at Waddesdon Manor (G. de Bellaigue, Furniture, Clocks and Gilt Bronzes, vol. II, 1974, p. 764). A further pair, described as 19th century, is at Tatton Park, Cheshire (National Trust inventory no. 1296815.1; P. Ferguson, ‘An Eclectic taste for ormolu mounted ceramics at Tatton Park, Cheshire', Antiques, June 2008, pp. 72-79).

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