Rare Pair of Medici Vases made of Lacquered and Patinated Sheet Metal and Gilt Bronze with Matte and Burnished Finishing
Paris, late 18th century, circa 1790-1800
Made entirely of finely chased gilt bronze with matte and burnished finishing and lacquered sheet metal imitating patinated bronze, the vases have an elaborate form that was inspired by the famous Medici vase now in the Uffizi Museum in Florence. The lips are adorned with friezes made up of lambrequins and reserves alternating with acanthus leaves; the necks are embellished with friezes depicting children playing among the clouds, placed between plain burnished bands; The applied handles in the form of half-lyres terminate in scrolling centered by mobile fluted rings; ram’s heads adorn the shoulders of the vases, which are decorated with bead friezes. The lower portions of the vases are embellished with wide acanthus leaf bouquets that alternate with seeded laurel garlands. The pedestals, adorned with knops decorated with wheat sheaves and beadwork, are highlighted by ribbon-tied laurel toruses. The molded quadrangular bases are adorned with stylized friezes with acanthus leaves.
The present pair of vases was inspired by the work of several important Parisian bronziers of the second half of the 18th century, and particularly by the so-called “ram’s head” models created by Pierre Gouthière (1732-1813) for the Duke d’Aumont, who was one of the most famous Parisian collectors of the day (see C. Vignon and C. Baulez, Pierre Gouthière: ciseleur-doreur du roi, Mare/Martin, 2016). Contemporary sources, among them the records of auctions that took place during the early years of the 19th century, mention several pairs of vases that are similar to the present pair. Among them, one pair was described in the sale held after the closing of Monsieur Rolland’s shop specializing in drawings and prints, on March 22, 1830: “76. Vases, Medici form, adorned with a band depicting a frieze of children’s games, scrolling handles, rings, and ram’s heads, pedestal base, chased gilt bronze torus”. A second pair, which may be the present pair, was offered at auction in late 1803: “31. Two vases, Medici form, varnished sheet metal, with low-relief friezes of children’s games, garnished with ram’s head handles and rings, bottoms and leaves, elaborately decorated pedestals and bases in gilt bronze. Total height 17 inches”. Today a small number of identical vases are known; among them one pair was formerly in the collection of Monsieur António de Sommer Champalimaud (1918-2004), who was a Portuguese banker and industrialist; his collection was sold in London in the mid 2000s.