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A monumental copper, silver and silver-gilt vase, designed by émile-auguste
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À propos de l'objet

Of immense size, 'incrusté d'or et d'argent', the patinated copper foot and body enriched with gold and silvered anthemions, vines, profiles and other details and a Greek inscription from odes by Anacreon surrounding a vignette on each side, one depicting the birth of Venus, the other the poet himself in inebriate slumber dreaming of the Goddess of Love, the applied patinated and partly-gilt cast bronze handles with masks, inscribed above the foot: 'HENRI BOUILHET * ORFEVRES * PARIS * 1813 [sic] *,' further inscribed on the body: 'ΑΜΙΛΙΟΣ REIBER ΕΠΟΙΕΣΕΝ ΕΝ ΠΑΡΙΣΙΟΙΣ' (loosely translated, 'Created by Emile Reiber / made in Paris')\nThe inscriptions read:\nΑΓΑ ΤΙΣ ΤΟΡΕΥΣΕ ΜΟΝΤΟΝ ;\nΑΓΑ ΤΙΣ ΜΑΝΕΙΣΑ ΤΕΧΝΑ\nΑΝΕΧΕΥΕ ΚΥΜΑ ΔΕΙΚΩ\nΕΠΙ ΝΩΤΑ ΤΗΣ θΑΛΑΤΤΕΣ\n\nΟΤ' EΓΩ  ΓΙΩ ΤΟΝ ΟΙΝΟΝ,\nΜΥΡΩ ΕΥΩΔΕΙ ΤΕΓΞΑΣ\nΔΕΜΑΣ, ΑΓΚΑΛΑΙΣ ΔΕ ΚOΥΡΗΝ\nΚΑΤΕΧΩΝ, ΚΥΓΡΙΝΑ ΕΙΔΩ\n\nAnacreon (582 BC – 485 BC)\n\nVery little is known of the Greek lyric poet, Anacreon, who is chiefly remembered for his verses eulogizing love and wine.  His work, originally intended to be sung, together with that of other ancient Greek imitators who explored the same themes and wrote in the Anacreontic metre, was gathered together in a 10th Century manuscript, part of which is now in the Bibliothèque nationale de France. Collectively known as the Anacreontea, these poems have been enjoyed and plundered by generations of poets and artists. Among early translations are those by the French poet, Pierre Ronsard (1524-1585), published in 1555. John Addison's The Works of Anacreon, Translated into English Verse (London, 1735) includes the odes (nos. 51 and 39), respectively 'VENUS represented on a DISK' and 'ON HIMSELF.' Extracts from both, inscribed on the Anacreon Vase and quoted above, were translated by Addison, as follows:\n\nWhat daring, what aspiring Soul,\nHas taught the Ocean here to roll?\nAnd o'er this Disk's refulgent Plain,\nHas heap'd the Billows of the Main?\n\nWhen in Wine my Cares I steep,\nBalmy Odours round me weep:\nWhilst entranc'd in Beauty's Arms,\nVenus, I adore thy Charms!\n\nDuring the great Romantic period of the late 18th/early 19th centuries, André Chenier (1762-1794) in France, and the Irish Thomas Moore (1779-1852), who wrote the lyrics to 'The Last Rose of Summer,' undertook further translations and commentaries.\n\nMoore's Odes of Anacreon, translated into English verse was first published in London in 1800; a later edition (1871) of this popular work included a series of highly romantic illustrations in the manner of Flaxman after Anne-Louis Girodet de Roussy-Trioson (1767-1824). Moore (1800, pp. 199-202) describes the same ode chosen by Reiber for his Anacreon Vase as 'a very animated description of a picture of Venus on a discus, which represented the goddess in her first emergence from the waves':\n\nImagine thus, in semblance warm,\nThe Queen of Love's voluptuous form,\nFloating along the silv'ry sea,\nIn beauty's naked majesty! . . .\nShe floats upon the ocean's breast,\nWhich undulates in sleepy rest,\nAnd stealing on, she gently pillows\nHer bosom on the amorous billows.\nHer bosom, like the humid rose,\nHer neck, like dewy-sparkling snows,\nIllume the liquid path she traces,\nAnd burn within the stream's embraces!\n\nAnacreon's poems continued to attract attention, notably from Ernest Falconnet (1815-1891), who published a scholarly edition in 1847. The poet Leconte de Lisle (1818-1894), evoking the spirit of Anacreon's lines, wrote a series of 'Odes anacréontiques' (1861), one of which, 'La rose,' was set to music in 1890 as a mélodie for soprano and piano by Gabriel Fauré.\n\nThe Anacreon Vase\n\nLavish praise for Christofle's work at the Vienna exhibition of 1873 came from an unexpected source: the English Press. While not quite giving ground to the French – Christofle 'has nothing on his stall to equal the Helicon vase' (which, ironically, was the brainchild of the French artist, Léonard Morel-Ladeuil (1820-1888) working in England for Elkington & Co) – The Art Journal (1873, p. 325) pointed to Christofle's 'clever and ingenious process of apparently inlaying, simply by depositing different metals on other metals, producing thereby the effect of inlay.' The supreme example of this process, the combination of gold and silver on a beautiful coppery/bronze-coloured ground, was undoubtedly Christofle's remarkable Anacreon Vase, designed by the prolific Émile-Auguste Reiber (1826-1893). It stood proudly at the very centre of the firm's exhibit, dominating a multitude of smaller vases, cups, caskets and other items, many of which were either similarly patinated or richly decorated with enamels in patterns reflecting the then current fascination for Chinese and Japanese art.\n\nIn an age of intense interest in matters of art it is curious that the Anacreon Vase appears not to have attracted more interest from the critics, at least in print. The explanation is almost certainly because, as jury members Rouvenat & Fontenay record, it was delivered to the exhibition late ('puis un vase monumental en bronze, haut de 1m, 60 [sic], qui malheureusement a été envoyé un peu tardivement.' Exposition de Vienne, 1873 - Rapports, groupe VII, p. 380).\n\nA contemporary Italian report (L'Esposizione universale di Vienna del 1873, Milan, 1873, p. 524) gives details of the vase, as follows:\n\n'Fra i numerosi lavori di smalto di cui e ricca la mostra Christofle, non si sa veramente quale preferire, tanto sono tutti ugualmente deliziosi per l'ornato e per la maravigliosa finitezza del lavoro. Quasi tutti furon fatti del Signor Rabier. A questo illustre artista devesi pure il mirabile vaso di bronzo intarsiato alto un metro e sessanta centimetri, che vedesi nel mezzo della Espozione, a che ne forma quasi l'incoronamento. Di un garbo purissimo, e concepito secondo il grande stilo greco, rappresenta la nascita di Venere. Due strofe relative sono interziaate nel bronzo con caratteri antichi. Da un lato del vaso si vede Anacreonete intento a cantar Venere, dall'altro la bella dea che sorge dai flutti. Tutti lo hanno dichiarato un capolavoro.\nL'espozione del sig. Christofle e stata insignita dal diploma d'onore in ricompensa de' suoi grandi sforzi e del magnifico risultato conseguito.'\n\n'Of the numerous pieces of enamel which make up the rich display of Christofle, one does not really know which to prefer, because all are equally delicious in their ornamentation and in the marvellous finesse of the work. Almost all were designed by Signor Rabier [sic]. From this illustrious artist also comes the most incredible vase of inlaid bronze [sic] of one metre and sixty centimetres high, which one can see in the middle of [Christofle's] exhibit and which surely forms its crowning glory. Of the purest grace and conceived according to the grand Greek style, it represents Anacreon intent on singing to Venus, while on the other side the beautiful goddess rises from the waves. Everyone has declared it to be a masterpiece. Mr. Christofle's exhibit has been awarded a Diploma of Honour in recognition of his great efforts and the correspondingly magnificent results.'\n\nThere is no doubt that Christofle, or, rather, Henri Bouilhet, the firm's director and artistic driving force, was extremely proud of the Anacreon Vase. Not only did he illustrate the vase in his monumental history of French silver, where he also paid tribute to the genius of Emile Reiber (L'Orfèvrerie Français, Paris, 1912, vol. III, pp. 106-113), but the vase's design appears in a prominent position in Louis-Édouard Fournier's 1910 portrait of Bouihet with his son, André.\n\nIt is not an exaggeration to say that the Anacreon Vase represents the pinnacle of the 'incrusté d'or et d'argent' technique which was exploited so successfully by Christofle during the 1860s and 1870s. Even Elkington's, the original patentees of electroplating and electrotyping, the underlying processes which made the creation of the Anacreon Vase possible, never achieved anything as refined.\n\nThe Vienna Exposition, 1873\n\nThe Vienna World Exposition was declared open by Emperor Franz Joseph on 1 May 1873 and closed after 184 days on 31 October. Set in Vienna's immense Prater, the former royal park which had been open to the public since 1766, it covered an area several times greater than that of the Paris Exposition of 1867 in the Champs de Mars. The centrepiece of the Vienna Exposition was the magnificent Rotunda, designed by the Scottish engineer and naval architect, John Scott Russell (1808-1882).\n\nVisitors were treated to exhibits from 35 countries as well as the chance to experience several types of architecture and landscapes from abroad. Among these was an authentic Shinto shrine, with music and dance hall, set in a traditional Japanese garden.  Unfortunately, although no expense was spared in mounting and advertising the exhibition, the event was not an unqualified success. Following a period of unprecedented economic prosperity and only 11 days after the Exposition's opening ceremonies, the Vienna Stock Market crashed. The resultant ruin of many of the city's wealthiest businessmen was followed in June by a second disaster: an outbreak of cholera. Several foreign guests staying at the Danube World Exposition Hotel were the first to die of the disease and the epidemic did not abate until September.\n\nÉmile-Auguste Reiber\n\nÉmile-Auguste Reiber (1826-1893) served his apprenticeship with Guillaume-Abel Blouet (1795-1853), the celebrated French architect. He was also involved in Baron Haussmann's renovation of Paris before collaborating with Joseph-Théodore Deck (1823-1891) in painting some of the latter's highly decorative underglaze and enamel polychrome earthenware. Reiber afterwards joined Christofle as head of their design studio, a post he held successfully between1864 and 1878. A prolific writer, Reiber was also founder-director of the magazine L'Art Pour Tous, which he edited between 1861 and 1864 and again from 1886 to 1890, and in 1874 was awarded the Grand Prix of the Union Centrale des Arts Décoratifs.\n\nChristofle & Cie\n\nChristofle, the celebrated French firm of silversmiths, platers and bronzists, was established about 1830 by Charles Christofle (1805-1863). Appointed Orfèvre du Roi and Fournisseur de l'Empereur to Napoleon II, the firm exhibited in a series of national and international exhibitions, from 1839 onwards, at which it received many awards for excellence. Following Charles Christofle's death in 1863 the business passed to his son, Paul (1838-1907) in partnership with his nephew, Henri Bouilhet (1830-1910). These two men, particularly the latter, were very active in the promotion of fine workmanship and good design in their trade. While Paul Christofle was a member of the jury of the silver section at the Exposition Universelle, Paris, 1867, Bouilhet was honoured with the légion d'honnneur for his work in conjuction with the Exposition Universelle, Paris, 1878. Bouilhet was also author of the official French report of the silver section of the Exposition Universelle, Paris, 1900, which he followed with his three volume tome L'Orfèvrerie française aux XVIII et XIXe siècles (Paris, 1908-1912); he was also president of the French jury for the silver section at the St. Louis exhibition, 1904, and in 1910, the year of his death, he became president and co-founder of the Union Centrale des Arts Décoratifs, precursor of the Musée des Arts Décoratifs.\n\nIn addition to their regular silver and electroplate production, as well as special works in enamel and patinated metalwork, Christofle & Cie was a large manufacturer of monumental sculpture. The largest of these was the 9.70m high electro-gilt copper electrotype Virgin and Child of 1867, erected in 1870 on the dome of the church of Notre-Dame de La Garde, Marseilles. Christofle also furnished a pair of 5m high gilt figures (1867-1868) for the roof of the Opera Garnier, Paris, as well as groups (1873-1874) after originals by Albert-Ernest Carrier-Belleuse (1824-1887) for the Opera's main staircase.
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condition

Marvellous condition. Because of the way it was made, ie pattinated copper with electro deposited silver and gold (which is a few micron deep), silver has gone black. The coloured copper has also discoloured. Technically, it is an astonishing achievement and the technique remains now unknown; the buyer of this superb vase should seek the advice of a conservator before attempting to clean it in future. "In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue. NOTWITHSTANDING THIS REPORT OR ANY DISCUSSIONS CONCERNING A LOT, ALL LOTS ARE OFFERED AND SOLD AS IS" IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONDITIONS OF BUSINESS PRINTED IN THE SALE CATALOGUE."

dimensions

147.5cm , 57 ½ in high

exhibition

Vienna World Exposition of 1873 Private Collection

consignmentDesignation

Le Vase Anacréon


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