This impressive suite of four vases (Lots 34 & 35), grand in scale and rich in decoration, are a fine manifestation of European fascination with Chinese works of art of the highest order. Their elaborate ormolu mounts by celebrated French sculptor and founder, Charles Crozatier, cast with tumbling cascades of water, finely chased scallop shells and turtle feet, complement the richly enamelled Chinese Canton porcelain bodies painted with figural scenes and applied with relief decoration. Created in the tradition of the marchands-merciers of the Ancien Régime, these splendid vases would almost certainly have graced a fashionably eclectic 'historicist’ interior of the Restauration or July Monarchy.
For centuries, fine porcelains from the Far East have been a subject of fascination for European collectors. From the mid-18th century, celebrated French marchands-merciers, including Lazare Duvaux, oversaw the import of Chinese and Japanese porcelains which they combined with specially-designed bronze mounts by French bronziers such as Jean-Claude Duplessis, and sold to the likes of the Marquise de Pompadour and many other sophisticated patrons of the Ancien Régime. During the Restauration and July Monarchy, a diverse taste in works of art prevailed which saw the creation of richly eclectic interiors combining the finest French works of art in the tradition of the 18th century with objects collected from around the world, a reflection of the far-flung contemporary French military and trade campaigns. Empress Eugénie’s musée Chinois at Château de Fontainebleau – a richly decorated series of rooms displaying objects from the Far East in the collection of the Imperial family and created in 1863 – is a fine example of the fashion which is also reflected in the present lot.
Dated to the Daoguang period (1821-1850), the present, exceptionally large Chinese Canton porcelain vases are richly enamelled with figural scenes painted in bright colours, reflective of the Famille Rose palette. First introduced in the early 18th century, the Famille Rose palette was employed by Chinese artisans on porcelain wares which were highly sought after by sophisticated Occidental clientele. It was utilized into the 19th century on increasingly large-scale vases and objects, such as the present lot, which depict scenes of scholar-officials and warriors in great detail.
Charles Crozatier (1795-1855), the author of the rich mounts to each vase, was a celebrated sculptor and founder who trained in the workshop of sculptor Pierre Cartellier (1757-1831) and was responsible for casting some of the most important bronze groups and works of art created in the early 19th century. Monumental casts by Crozatier include the figure of Napoleon 1er after Charles Émile Marie Seurre (1798-1858) which was originally atop the Colonne de la Grande Armée in the Place Vendôme (1833), the chariot and figural group atop the Arc du Carroussel after the model by François-Joseph Bosio (1768-1845), and the equestrian sculpture of Louis XIV in the Place d’Armes at the Château de Versailles (1836).
In addition to monumental bronze groups, Crozatier also created works of art and finely chased bronzes to furnish the grandest interiors of the early 19th century. Examples include an ormolu mantel clock created in partnership with Henri Picard after the celebrated Louis XV model 'pendule à la gloire du Roi’ today in the grand salon of the Napoléon III apartments at the Louvre, a pair of elaborate torchères delivered on 14 June 1845 to the duc and duchesse de Nemours for their Grand Salon at the Palais des Tuileries (ill. in Un âge d'or des arts décoratifs 1814-1848, exhibition catalogue, 10 October – 30 December 1991, Paris, 1991, pp. 390-391) and a pair of sculptural chenets in the Demidoff collection at the Palais de San Donato, sold in the celebrated sale on 15 March 1880 (lot 287). The present lots are well placed within this fine tradition of craftsmanship, and further distinguished by their incorporation of exquisite Chinese porcelains – a proud continuation in the tradition the Ancien Régime, updated and enlarged to suit the grand tastes of the day.