Une grand Jardinière en email montée sur trépied en bronze nuance d'or
Vol de cigognes au-dessus des eaux de la mer.
Hauteur 1m 40c
Christofle & CIE Orfèvres, 56 rue. De Bondy - Paris, Catalogue des Objets Exposés L'Exposition de L'Union Centrale des Beaux-Arts, Appliqués a L'Industrie, 1874, p. 11.
Titled vase-cigogne and shown at the Exposition de L'Union Centrale des Beaux-Arts in 1874, this spectacular jardinière-on-stand is exemplary of Christofle's best émaux à cloisons produced under their chief designer Émile Reiber.
This jardinière epitomizes the 'style Japonais' which referred to a resurgence of Western interest in the art of Japan and China from the 1860s. The resurgence was driven by the colonisation of East Asia and the export of Japanese works of art following the Meiji restoration and found manifestation most completely in Empress Eugènie's musée Chinois at Fontainebleau where the rooms were remodelled to complement the exhibits, with furnishings in the Chinese taste supplied by the French makers. In the West, contact with quality Asian works of art had a direct impact on attitudes to design and decoration. Designers and makers studied the forms and techniques, and began to produce goods using the stylized vocabulary and balanced asymmetry of the Far East.
Around 1830, Charles Christofle took over his brother-in-law's bijouterie-joaillerie 'Maison Calmette' and changed its name to 'Société Charles Christofle & Cie'. Christofle pioneered the production of relatively affordable electroplated flat and tableware having obtained patents in 1842 and 1843 from Elkington, their English competitor, for the galvanic process of gilding and silvering, known as argenterie electro-chimique. Pieces produced by this new process were first exhibited at the Exposition des produits de l'industrie française, Paris, in 1844 and won the firm a gold medal and its founder the Légion d'Honneur. Shortly afterwards, Charles Christofle was appointed Fournisseur officiel du Roi Louis-Philippe and, in 1855, Fournisseur de l'Empereur, supplying fine quality pieces, predominantly tableware, for the various palaces and ministerial offices of Napoleon III.
The commercial success brought by the production of electroplated silverware firmly established Christofle as France's leading manufacturer of gold and silverware in the second half of the 19th century. Following Charles Christofle's death in 1863 the firm passed to his son Paul (1838-1907) and nephew Henri Bouilhet (183-1910) who worked to promote fine workmanship and good design which they showcased at the international exhibitions. They appointed Émile-Auguste Reiber (1826-1893) as head of Christofle's design studio in 1865 and he developed, in addition to their usual production of silverware, an inspired series of quite extraordinary Japanese style pieces.
Reiber had at his disposal Christofle's considerable technical capabilities in orfévrerie, galvanoplastie (electroplating) and bronzework. He produced Grecian, Indian and Renaissance, as well as Japanese, designs, but his genius was finding at Christofle the capability to realise them in three-dimensions and in such exceptional quality. His innovation was therefore both technical and artistic. He sought to imitate the cloisonnés enamels and mixed-metal bronzework perfected over millennia in Japan and China. Rieber's Meiji counterparts gathered together in Kyoto artists with differing expertise in casting, enamel and patination, to work in collaboration in the creation of a single piece, whereas in the West only at Christofle could Rieber have found the skill to start manufacture afresh and under one roof.
Christofle's subsequent displays at the 1873 Vienna Exhibition, 1874 Exposition de L'Union Centrale and 1878 Paris Exposition Universelle attracted great acclaim with particular praise for Émile Reiber's Japonais designs. The present jardinière was shown at the 1874 Exposition de L'Union Centrale, the precursor of the Musée des Arts Decoratifs, and Christofle's display won Émile Reiber a Grand Prix.
'Elles sont dues à M. Reiber, qui a su tirer très-bon parti de ses études sur le style japonais. C'est M. Reiber qui est à la tête des ateliers de composition et de dessin: les émaux cloisonnés et les bronzes incrustés sont donc en grande partie son oeuvre et lui font le plus grand honneur'.
Gazette des Beaux-Arts, Paris, 1874, p. 422.
It was not however recorded in the Christofle catalogue for the 1878 Paris Exposition, therefore indicating that it was probably sold following its display in 1874. The likelihood that it was sold at or shortly after the 1874 exhibtion, is coroborated by the the Musée Maison Bouilhet Christofle which records that another jardinière of this model, with the same mounts and stand but different enamel designed by Henri Godin, was shown in 1878 (whereabouts unknown). The provenance for the present jardinèire is not recorded after 1874 until it was bought at auction in the East Midlands in the late 1940s by the present owner's parents.