A LATE 19TH CENTURY FRENCH NEO-GREC GILT AND PATINATED BRONZE GARNITURE BY FERDINAND BARBEDIENNE, DESIGNED BY FERDINAND LEVILLAIN AND HENRY CAHIEUX
the amphora vases with gilt rims, their necks cast with gilt leafy fronds, the tapering bodies each with a pair of reeded handles, cast in relief with classical figures, the first with a male nude playing pipes at a small altar, the reverse with a further altar with a bearded Bacchic head on the ground and a thrysus, the other depicting a male nude offering a ram to the flaming altar, the reverse with a further altar with a Bacchic male head on the ground, both raised on three Bacchic bust monopediae terminating in paw feet over Rouge Griotte marble and ormolu triform plinth bases, both vases signed to the bodies ‘F. LEVILLAIN’ and ‘F. BARBEDIENNE’, together with a matched urn, signed ‘F. BARBEDIENNE FONDEUR’ and ‘HENRY CAHIEUX’, the tapering body cast in relief with classical figures and anthemions, raised on a spreading circular foot,
the vases 32cm high, the urn 31cm high (3)
Ferdinand Barbedienne (1810-1892) and Ferdinand Levillain (1837-1905) exhibited a large amphora vase of similar Neo-Grec design to the present pair at the Paris Universal Exhibition in 1878, at the same exhibition Levillain was unanimously awarded a gold medal for his Neo-Grec pieces, and the famous Parisian bronzier Henri Servant declared in the report of the jury for Artistic Bronzes that the work of Levillain ‘chased like the finest jewels’, and works were ‘so diverse and pure of form (…) are of the highest degree of perfection’. Levillain receiving a first class medal at the 1884 Salon for a cup entitled ‘The Elements, the Months and the Seasons’ and won a silver medal at the 1889 Universal Exhibition in Paris. In 1892, the French Republic made Levillain a Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur.
A pair of vases of identical design but 56cm high were sold at Sotheby’s, New York, 22 October 2008, lot 72, $15,000.
A very large pair of amphora shaped vases of similar design to the present pair and also produced by Levillain and Barbedienne were sold at Christie’s, New York, 24 April 2001, lot 251, £68,000.
The classical relief decorating the present urn is identical to that featured in a pair of urns exhibited by Henry Cahieux at the 1855 Paris Universal Exhibition. Cahieux supplied Barbedienne with numerous design for casting in bronze during the 1850’s and 1860’s, and the urn that featured this relief was described as follows: “The two vases (…) selected from many exquisite and beautiful decorative works in bronze from the atelier of Messrs. Barbedienne & Cie, of Paris; they are formed, and ornamented, on the best models of the ancient Greeks”.
See Sotheby’s, New York, 20 April 2007, lot 3, $12,000 for a pair of urns by Cahieux and Barbedienne that feature the same classical relief to the present urn.