Important Pair of Gilt Bronze Ewers with Figures of Victory, Empire period
Call +33 1 45 61 44 55
Attributed to Claude Galle
Important Pair of Gilt Bronze Ewers with Figures of Victory
Paris, Empire period, circa 1810
Height 82 cm; width 31 cm; depth 15.5 cm
These elaborately formed chased gilt bronze ewers have elongated bodies that are decorated with knurled friezes, masks, flowers, winged tritons blowing into seashells and marine trophies with palmettes and anchors. Their shoulders are decorated with applied lobsters, and terminate in dolphin-head spouts. Their handles are comprised of fine winged figures representing allegories of Victory, which stand on stems decorated with scrolling foliage. The gadrooned lower portion is supported on a spreading pedestal decorated with applied grape leaves, grapes, and palmettes, which is set upon an octagonal moulded base that is adorned with dolphins, swans swimming in fountains and double seahorses whose tails twine around tridents.
The attribution of this extraordinary model to the bronze caster Claude Galle is based on a number of similarities with pieces known to have been created by Galle. Among them, a large vase, which also features ocean motifs and whose handles feature identical female figures, was formerly in the collection of Victor Masséna, Prince of Essling, and is today in the Musée Masséna in Nice (see L. Mézin, La Villa Masséna du Premier Empire à la Belle Epoque, 2010, p. 114-115, catalogue n° 38). Among the small number of identical ewers attributed to Claude Galle, one pair was formerly in the famous Akram Ojjeh collection (illustrated in H. Ottomeyer and P. Pröschel, Vergoldete Bronzen, Die Bronzearbeiten des Spätbarock und Klassizismus, Band I, Munich, 1986, p. 365, fig. 5.12.9). A second pair, with marble bases, is displayed in the Turin Decorative Arts Museum (Accorsi-Ometto Foundation, illustrated in the exhibition catalogue Fondation Accorsi, Gli splendori del bronzo, Mobili e oggetti d’arredo tra Francia e Italia 1750-1850, Turin, 2002). Another similar ewer, from the Théodore Reinach collection, was pictured in L. Metman and J-L. Vaudoyer, Le Musée des Arts décoratifs, Pavillon de Marsan, Le Bronze, Deuxième Album du milieu du XVIIIe siècle au milieu du XIXe siècle, Paris, circa 1920, plate CLVIII, fig. 1468.
Claude Galle (1759 - 1815) One of the foremost bronziers and fondeur-ciseleurs of the late Louis XVI and Empire periods, Claude Galle was born at Villepreux near Versailles. He served his apprenticeship in Paris under the fondeur Pierre Foy, and in 1784 married Foy’s daughter. In 1786 he became a maitre-fondeur. After the death of his father-in-law in 1788, Galle took over his workshop, soon turning it into one the finest, and employing approximately 400 craftsmen. Galle moved to Quai de la Monnaie (later Quai de l’Unité), and then in 1805 to 60 Rue Vivienne. The Garde-Meuble de la Couronne, under the direction of sculptor Jean Hauré from 1786-88, entrusted him with many commissions. Galle collaborated with many excellent artisans, including Pierre-Philippe Thomire, and furnished the majority of the furnishing bronzes for the Château de Fontainebleau during the Empire. He received many other Imperial commissions, among them light fittings, figural clock cases, and vases for the palaces of Saint-Cloud, the Trianons, the Tuileries, Compiègne, and Rambouillet. He supplied several Italian palaces, such as Monte Cavallo, Rome and Stupinigi near Turin. In spite of his success, and due in part to his generous and lavish lifestyle, as well as to the failure of certain of his clients (such as the Prince Joseph Bonaparte) to pay what they owed, Galle often found himself in financial difficulty. Galle’s business was continued by his son after his death by his son, Gérard-Jean Galle (1788-1846). Today his work may be found in the world’s most important museums and collections, those mentioned above, as well as the Musée National du Château de Malmaison, the Musée Marmottan in Paris, the Museo de Reloges at Jerez de la Frontera, the Residenz in Munich, and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.
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