A pair of late Louis XVI ormolu and verde antico ewers, circa 1790-1800. Photo: Christie‘s Images Ltd 2012.
Each of ovoid shape decorated with scrolling foliage and classical masks, surmounted by a stiff-leaf wrapped and basket-weave cast waisted neck and a gadrooned lid with floral finial, flanked by a lion-handle and a dragon's head handle, the gadrooned base cast with guilloche and husks, the waisted socle with a floral wreath, on a spreading circular fluted and gadrooned base and a square plinth with inset palmette-cast panels and beaded turned feet, two palmet plaques to the base and feet later, two of the mounts to the feet replaced; 18 in. (46 cm.) high, 8 in. (21 cm.) wide, 6 in. (15 cm.) deep (2). Lot 1258. Estimate 60,000 - 90,000 U.S. dollars.
Provenance: Acquired in Paris by George Byng M.P. (d. 1847), for Wrotham Park, Hertfordshire, in 1823.
Thence by descent to Julian Byng, sold Christie's, London, 10 June 1993, lot 103.
Anonymous sale; Christie's, London, 9 December 2004, lot 219.
Notes: These magnificent ewers were inspired by the Louis XIV examples attributed to Michel Anguier, which the dealer Madame Légère purchased at the celebrated Blondel de Gagny sale in 1776. Amongst the greatest collectors and amateurs of his age, the financier Augustin Blondel de Gagny (1695-1776) was particularly noted for his interest in Boulle furniture. Of the six vases listed in Blondel de Gagny's sale, the first two are described as having been made by Louis XIV's silversmith Lardoizeau. They are listed as lot 495:-
Deux buires, par Michel Anguier elles sont composées richement et très bien executes: hauteur chacune de 14 po. 394 livres à Légère.
The ewers were again sold in the sale of the stock of Mme. Légère on 15 December 1784:
No. 13- Deux buyres, couvertes, á anse formée par une lionne debout, les deux pattes appuyés sur une console, le bec á téte de cheval ailé, le corps á mosaiques, mascarons et bustes de relief, culot á godron et piedouche cannelé, sur socle de bois doré: hauteur 14po (37.9cm.).
Ces deux vases réparés par Michel Auguier, méritent attention & sont peu répétés.
The bronzier Michel Auguier (1612-1686) worked for the duchesse de Montmorency, Fouquet and Anne of Austria. Amongst his most celebrated commissions was the pair of bronze vases delivered for the parterre du Nord at Versailles.
A vase with very similar handle signed by the silversmith Nicolas Delaunay and dated 1697 is in the Cathedral Museum at Poitiers, France 'Les Trésors des Eglises de France', Exhibition Catalogue,
Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris, 1965, p. 187, no. 347). Another pair with this handle is illustrated in The French Bronze 1500-1800, M. Knoedler & Co., New York, 1968, no. 30.
Various elements in the design of these ewers, notably the winged spout, the mask supporting the handle and the espagnolette mask on the frieze appear in three drawings attributed to Jacques de Meaux from the Tessin Collection in Stockholm, illustrated in 'Versailles à Stockholm,' Paris, 1985, Exhibition Catalogue, pp. 196-198. Jacques de Meaux was the half-brother of Nicolas Delaunay, uncle of Robert de Cotte and brother-in-law of Corneille van Cleve. A bronze ewer of this form appears in a still-life by Chardin of musical instruments with a parrot of about 1730 and in two of his later works of 1765 and 1766 (P. Conisbee, Chardin, Oxford, 1986, pls. 89, 202 and 19 respectively).
Two bronze ewers of identical form, one of which was said to be of the Louis XIV period and stamped with the C couronné poiçnon and the other of later date, were offered Sotheby's London, 5 July 1990, lot 138.
A pair of vases of this form in the collection of Matthew Uzielli of Hanover Lodge, Regent's Park, London, is illustrated by way of an engraving in the privately printed catalogue of his collection, published in London in 1850, nos. 603 and 604.
GEORGE BYNG AND WROTHAM PARK
The vases were acquired in Paris in 1823 by George Byng (d.1847), for the enlarged State Rooms at Wrotham Park, Hertfordshire.
They are mentioned in the 'List of furniture, Porcelain, Paintings, etc, puchased by George Byng, Esq., for Wrotham Park 1816-1843', where they are described as 'A pair of superb Ormolu Ewers formed from the Antique on Verde plinths and glass shades £ 44 2s 0d.'
Designed circa 1754 by Isaac Ware (d. 1766) for the unfortunate victim of 'Judicial murder' Admiral John Byng (d. 1757), Wrotham was inherited by the 'neither learned, eloquent or profound' (Gentleman's Magazine, 1847, p. 309) George Byng on the death of his father in 1789. This harsh dismissal of the Father of the House and Whig Member of Parliament for Middlesex, a tenure which he held for fifty-six years, does not fairly reflect this connoisseur's broad, though selective taste. Following the 1811 improvements, whereby the wings flanking Ware's central block were raised to provide further State Rooms, Byng proceeded to enrich the furnishings of the house in the French taste. The predominance of 'Buhl' furniture, as well as Louis XV and Louis XVI ormolu-mounted objets, typified the fashionable 'goût' expounded by the marchand-mercier Edward Holmes Baldock (d. 1854). Patronised by George IV, Purveyor of China, Earthenware and Glass to William IV (1832-37) and Purveyor of China to Queen Victoria (1838-45), Baldock was responsible for the formation of many of the great early 19th Century collections of French furniture, including those of the Dukes of Buccleuch and Northumberland and William Beckford, and it is highly probable that these pieces were supplied by him.
Certainly the remarkable picture collection clearly reveals that Byng was a connoisseur of considerable merit who was prepared to pay high prices for top quality pieces. These characteristics are shared by Baldock's principal clients and are reflected in the furnishings acquired by Byng for Wrotham up until his death in 1847 at such great sales as Wanstead, Essex in 1822 and the Duke of York's (d.1827) Collection (which was sold at Christie's London, 5-8 April 1827).
Christie's. A Taste for Luxury: Two Great Houses from America's Gilded Age. 21 June 2012. New York, Rockefeller Plaza