On the occasion of the Biennale des Antiquaires, Christie's
Paris will present some of the most iconic works of the Empire period through a private sale exhibition named "Empire‟. For this event, Christie's collaborated with Monsieur Hubert de Givenchy who is renowned for his exquisite taste and elegance. From September 8th to the 25th, 2014, this event is a superb and unprecedented opportunity for collectors to explore a multi-category private sale exhibition. Comprising silver, porcelain, furniture, old master drawings and paintings, masterpieces often with imperial provenances have been selected. Most of the great artists of the Empire, responsible for the craftsmanship of these works will be included: silver by Jean-Baptiste-Claude Odiot; porcelain from the Royal Sèvres manufacture; furniture by major cabinetmakers like Jacob; drawings and paintings by Jacques-Louis David and Girodet.
François de Ricqlès, President of Christies Paris: After the success of the exhibition la Galerie de Girardon, évocation par Monsieur Hubert de Givenchy that Christie's had organised with Mr. de Givenchy in September 2012, we are proud to renew this adventure during the Biennale des Antiquaires de Paris. From September 8th to the 25th, we hope you will enjoy the Empire private sale exhibition where our specialists have selected the most prestigious items of the period.
From the collection of Monsieur Hubert de Givenchy, the Empire private sale exhibition includes a pair of Sarreguemines stoneware porphyry-simulated torchères so-called candélabres‟. The earthenware Sarreguemines manufacture created a new technique to imitate stones; it was first shown at the Exposition des produits de lindustrie in 1809, and they were being given a gold medal. Baron Vivant-Denon, Directeur général of the Musée Napoléon, looked very carefully at these pieces and decided to make an important order that included eight pairs of torchères based on the designs from his journey to Egypt between 1798 and 1799 during Napoleon's campaign, as well as twenty-two pairs of vases. The torchères were then mounted with ormolu probably by Pierre-Maximilien Delafontaine (1777-1860). Except for this actual pair, six other pairs of torchères are kept within the collections of the Musée Marmottan near Paris, the Château de Fontainebleau (two pairs) and the Palazzo Reale in Naples (two pairs).
This pair of ormolu-mounted two-handled faux malachite and gold ground vases fuseau celebrates the wonders the Sèvres manufacture realised at the beginning of the 19th century (lot 33). The royal manufacture employed the most prestigious artists: Philippine, Jeune, (painter), Charles-Christian-Marie Durosey (gilder) and Pierre-Philippe Thomire, the celebrated bronzier. Executed circa 1816, these vases demonstrate the superlative craftsmanship of these artists. Shaped in the Etruscan style that characterises the Empire period, the décor is particularly exceptional; as shows the malachite ground that enhances the alternated opal and pigeon blood ruby cabochons. These gems are even further highlighted by the white enamelled beads that surround them and outline each trellis section. The outstanding quality defines the output of the Sèvres manufacture at this period.
Another triumph of the Sèvres manufactory is this sumptuous vase Lagrenée also most probably mounted by Thomire (lot 16). Depicting classical scenes with references to Antiquity, the influence of architects and designers Charles Percier and Pierre-François Fontaine's work is very prominent here: the classical decoration, the large polychrome arabesques on gold ground, the handles in the shape of winged maidens and even the shape of the vase itself recalls an antique Greek krater vase. The vase has an illustrious provenance and was once in the collection of by the 10th Duke of Hamilton at Hamilton Palace until sold at Christie's house sale in 1882. The Duke was a diplomat who was Ambassador to the Russian Court in Saint Petersburg. He was a fervent art collector whose collections and sale were famed.
Further highlights of the private sale exhibition include a magnificent pair of silver-gilt soup tureens and covers from the Branicki service (lot 13). Countess Branicki, born Aleksandra von Engelhardt in 1754 was the niece and confidante of Prince Potemkine. Together with her five sisters, she joined the Court in Saint Petersburg in 1772 where Catherine II recognized her liveliness and intelligence and made her first lady-in-waiting. In 1781, Aleksandra married Count Franciszek Ksawery Branicki, a Polish aristocrat who died in 1819. During this year, she commissioned this service from renowned goldsmith Jean- Baptiste-Claude Odiot, whose work was already admired by Emperor Napoleon I. Many vivid references to the Emperor's reign are visible in the decorative vocabulary of these tureens: sphinxes, winged Victories, scrolling grapevines or swan's heads as handles. This service initially comprised 140 pieces and was exhibited in 1819 by Odiot at the Exhibition of Industrial Production at the Louvre, where he also presented the Demidoff service for which he received a gold medal from the jury. These soup tureens initially came from a larger set of four; the other two are now preserved in the Amsterdam Rijksmuseum's collections.
The exhibition includes another superb silver-gilt soup tureen with another prestigious provenance (lot 18). This item comes from the renowned Borghese service, realised by Jean-Baptiste Odiot in Paris between 1809 and 1819. This service was probably bought by Pauline Bonaparte, the Emperor's second sister and his favourite, who married Prince Camille Borghèse. The service is influenced by the works of Percier and Fontaine as shown by its pure shape, antique motifs or stylised flowers and leaves. It was sold during the sale of the collections of the Borghèse Palace in 1892. Its trace is then lost, before being discovered again when Mrs. Edith Rockfeller McCormick lent it to the Chicago Art Institute for an exhibition between 1924 and 1932. At her death in 1934, it was sold by the American Art Association-Anderson Galleries of New York. Other items of this service are for instance at the Metropolitan Museum of New York.
OLD MASTER DRAWINGS and PAINTINGS
Empire will also include an important study by Jacques-Louis David (Paris 1748-1825 Bruxelles) for the famed Coronation of Napoleon in the Louvre (lot 12). This drawing, signed JL David depicts one of the central figures of the painting who has been variously identified at the abbé Salamon, the cardinal Bayane (born Alphonse- Hubert de Lattier de Bayane, 1739-1818), or the nuncio Speroni, and two priests accompanying him. Firmly holding his cross, the ecclesiastic stands right in the focal point of the painting between the Emperor and his wife Joséphine whom he is about to crown. Executed in black chalk, pen and grey ink and grey wash, the drawing is the final preparatory sheet for the group. The artist made very little change between the present sketch and the final canvas, where the clothes and facial expressions appear almost identical.
This moving portrait by Girodet de Roucy Trioson will also be featured in the exhibition (lot 32). The artist was famous for depicting portraits of great historical figures. Here, the Marquise de La Grange holds a letter received from her son General Ange- François de La Grange who tries reassuring his mother from the Wagram battlefield in 1809. The painter translated mixed feelings into this portrait: pride, fear, sadness and relief are present in her expression. The study for this painting belongs to the collections of the Girodet museum in Montagris.
Part of the old master paintings section is one of the most accomplished representations of renowned painter Louis Gauffier (1726-1801) (lot 27). The artist studied in Paris and in Rome after having won the Prix de Rome in 1784 and before settling in Florence with his young wife and former student Pauline. There, he meets high dignitaries of the Florentine society who quickly become his main source of commissions. Initially trained as a historical painter, he soon turns to portraits, specialising in depicting his models posing in front of Roman or Tuscan landscapes bathed in light. This portrait of Don Lourenço José Xavier de Lima, First Count of Mafra (1767-1839) executed in 1793 is a magnificent example of what made him so successful.
Also from the collection of Monsieur de Givenchy, another important piece included in this exhibition is the guéridon from the collections of Cardinal Fesch, uncle of the Emperor (lot 2). Immensely wealthy, he built a collection of paintings that was to become one of the most famed picture collections in France. His residences both in Paris and in Rome were decorated in the latest Antique taste. Roman workshops created giltwood furniture for him after designs by architects Lorenzo Santi (1783-1839) and Dionisio Santi (1787-?). In June 1816, Fesch sold part of his collection at auction, which included 13 similar giltwood tables, and probably comprised this guéridon. Subsequently, the table might have been acquired by the Duke of Orléans, future King Louis- Philippe who was a major buyer in the Cardinal Fesch's auction.
Further highlights of the furniture section include an extraordinary set of four armchairs (lot 21) that was executed by one of the most celebrated furniture workshops of the Empire period, run by the Jacob family. They were modelled by François-Honoré-Georges Jacob-Desmalter after a design by Percier and Fontaine who had invented this in 1804 for Napoléon's throne room at the Tuileries Palace. These armchairs where created for the ceremonial bedroom of Empress Joséphine at the Saint-Cloud Palace. They are listed in the 1807 inventory of Saint-Cloud as part of Joséphine's bedroom, but also in later inventories as part of Marie- Louise's furniture.