European Ceramics from Terracotta to Porcelain
Chronology : 1430-1459 1780-1789 1840-1849 1970
1450 Relief Images
2021 SOLD for $ 2M including premium
On January 28 in New York, Sotheby's sells a terracotta made by Luca around 1450, lot 2 estimated $ 700K. The Madonna in half length holds the Child in her arms. The 10 cm deep relief is boxed in a 47 x 40 cm false frame.
The figures are beautiful, with a sympathetic exchange of glances and a caress by the Child. The characters are white on a sky blue background. The frame imitates marble. Another example from the same mold is known.
On January 25, 2017, Sotheby's sold for $ 550K including premium from a lower estimate of $ 150K a 52 x 42 cm relief. The naked Child is standing on the frame and puts a hand around his mother's neck, but they do not look at each other.
The origin of this image is a painting by Fra Filippo Lippi. The relief was created by Luca around 1460. This version is a replica around 1490-1500 by his nephew Andrea, with white figures on a blue background as in the example above.
This treatment of terracotta was exclusive to the della Robbia family and ensured its prosperity for a century. The details of the technique have not been disclosed.
#AuctionUpdate: And we're off! This charming mid-15th century relief of the Madonna and Child by Luca della Robbia, one of the very rare autograph works by the artist to have come onto the market in recent times achieves $2 million, a new auction record for the artist pic.twitter.com/Bx8QDX0rBB— Sotheby's (@Sothebys) January 28, 2021
Terracotta Group of Virgin and Child
2008 SOLD for $ 5.6M including premium by Sotheby's
narrated in 2021
Three high reliefs in painted terracotta of the Virgin and Child have some features in common although the scenes are different. The Child is energetic and authoritarian. The loving and thoughtful Mother seeks more to protect him from dangers than to maintain empathy. The clothes are the subject of a rich polychromy mixed with gilding.
These pigmented reliefs are not similar to the glazed terracotta supplied by the della Robbias for private devotion. They are original artworks of which no period copy has been identified. Two of them have an early Florentine provenance. If Donatello is their author, they were produced in his last Florentine period, after 1450.
The Virgin and Child in front of a curtain, 102 x 74 cm, is preserved in the Louvre. The Virgin and Child with four Cherubs, 100 x 70 x 20 cm, preserved in the Bode Museum in Berlin, lost its polychromy in a war fire.
The other image, 86 x 68 cm, is unusual in its composition and strong expressions, including the presence in the background of two hilarious cherubs. The polychromy has been well preserved despite some overpainting. Considered as an authentic Donatello work by Pope-Hennessy, it was sold by Sotheby's on January 24, 2008 for $ 5.6M including premium from a lower estimate of $ 2M, lot 75. It is illustrated in the auction report shared by Artnet.
1732 Couple of Lions in Meissen Porcelain
2006 SOLD for £ 2.8M including premium by Christie's
narrated in 2020
The alchemist Böttger was looking for the Philosopher's Stone in the service of Augustus and of course he could not find it. He experimented with very high temperatures to which he subjected kaolin-based pastes. He thus created for the first time in Europe a hard porcelain comparable to the Chinese porcelain.
Augustus immediately understood the interest of this invention for his own prestige. In 1710, he founded the Meissen porcelain factory, near Dresden. He had then collected ceramics from all sources in order to demonstrate the superiority of his new Saxon porcelain.
Animal metaphors are in the fashion. Augustus conceives around 1730 a porcelain menagerie in which the smaller animals would be life-size, the birds often in groups of four or eight. Entire rooms will have to be devoted to their exhibition in his Japanese Palace in Dresden. Meissen artists begin to prepare hundreds of subjects.
This new technique is particularly difficult for large figures. Glaze cannot be applied by dipping. The heat treatment creates shrinkages and cracks, to such an extent that their coloring, illusory in terms of yield, is not developed.
The death of Augustus in February 1733 put an end to the commission of the specific menagerie, but his successor continued to protect Meissen, whose commercial edition of small figures in brilliant colors became the specialty.
A pair of 50 cm high and 80 cm wide sculptures showing recumbent lion and lioness was sold for £ 2.8M including premium by Christie's on December 18, 2006, lot 51. Designed in 1732, they were made in white Meissen porcelain, with some examples of the inevitable firing faults of that period. They had remained with the descendants of Augustus.
1763 Table à Ecrire with Sèvres Porcelain
2005 SOLD for € 6.9M including premium by Artcurial
narrated in 2020
The cabinetmaker Joseph Baumhauer, whose stamp is limited to his first name, creates furniture with simple shapes, embellished with metal, hard stones, finely chiseled bronzes and lacquer panels. He is a specialist of the top luxury and court-empowered, and his production is scarce.
The best Sèvres porcelains are marked with a code corresponding to the year, which today helps dating the furniture they adorn.
A bureau plat was assembled by Joseph using porcelain dated H for 1760. Three other examples of this model are known. One of them was sold for € 6.9M including premium by Artcurial on December 13, 2005 from lower estimate of € 800K.
This desk 76 x 114 x 58 cm is stamped by Joseph. It is in rosewood and amaranth veneer and opens with three drawers on the front. It is decorated all around with 24 plaques in Sèvres porcelain decorated with polychrome flowers. A third of the plaques bear the letter K for 1763. The decoration is completed by gilded bronzes.
The Graf von Cobenzl, diplomat and trusted man of the Empress Maria Theresa of Austria, was a client of Poirier. The desk sold by Artcurial is probably the "table à écrire incrustée de porcelaine de Sèvres" which is listed in his inventory after death.
1784 Louis XVI Console with Sèvres Plaques
2002 SOLD for £ 2.65M including premium by Christie's
narrated in 2021
The traceability is excellent. The porcelains are signed and dated with a letter code. For the two consoles below, Daguerre's purchases have been identified unambiguously in the Sèvres archives. In 1784 he had only acquired three sets of plaques, five and three plaques in a group purchase, then five plaques. In the second half of 1786, Daguerre's only purchase was a set of five plaques at the same prices as the first batch of 1784. Daguerre had this type of furniture made by Carlin.
From 1976 to 1979, the two consoles dessertes belonged to the exceptional collection of Akram Ojjeh. They are of the same model, with three plaques on the front face and two side plates. The porcelain flower paintings were monogramed by the same artist. The consoles are in solid mahogany with identical dimensions, 91 x 135 x 51 cm.
The earliest, considered as a prototype, had not been kept by Ojjeh. The porcelains are dated 1784 and it is stamped by Carlin. It was sold by Christie's on December 12, 2002 for £ 2.65M including premium from a lower estimate of £ 1M, lot 50.
On the other console, the porcelains dated 1786 have thus been made after Carlin's death. It was probably assembled by Weisweiler. Coming from the Ojjeh estate, it was sold for FF 10M including premium by Christie's on December 11, 1999 from a lower estimate of FF 5M.
1785 Sèvres Porcelain and Gilt bronze Candelabra
2008 SOLD 1.4 M€ including premium
The sale of October 2 will be entirely devoted to a collection.
Lot 48, a pair of candelabra, is typical of top French taste of the reign of Louis XVI and its royal origin confirms it as one of the highlights of the sale.
The main ornament of each piece is a draped caryatide figure in biscuit de Sèvres according to a model of Louis Simon Boizot, head of the sculpture workshop of the factory. It is mounted on a cylindrical base also in Sèvres, and supports five gilded bronze arm lights decorated with arabesques. The mount could be attributed to Pierre-Philippe Thomire, who was the titular bronzier of Sèvres. The total height is 128 cm.
This pair was probably the one offered by Louis XVI in 1785 to his cousin Princess of Asturias, and was later transferred from the royal family of Spain to the very prestigious collection of Mentmore Towers.
It is estimated 800 K €.
POST SALE COMMENT
The pieces of highest decoration from the French eighteenth century can make prices equivalent to the top pieces of furniture. Here is a proof with our pair of candelabra, sold 1.4 million € fees included.
1807-1809 The Marli Rouge Service
2018 SOLD for $ 1.8M including premium by Christie's
narrated in 2020
This porcelain ware was ready in October 1809, but the concerns of the emperor had changed. Compiègne had been used for a few months to house the King of Spain, whom Napoléon had just dismissed, and the emperor is preparing to divorce his beloved Joséphine, unable to give him an heir. The services are delivered to Fontainebleau.
The dessert service is described as "fond rouge, papillons et fleurs" in the archives of Sèvres, and more commonly as the "marly rouge service". The marli, formerly marly, designates the sloping crown of a plate.
This large service dated from 1807 to 1809 was originally composed of 180 plates decorated with a butterfly in the center as well as a wreath of flowers in a circular band, 36 smaller fruit plates, 16 compotiers in two models, 4 bowls, 4 sucriers, 4 ice buckets in two models, and 8 baskets in two models also. Pieces of form display animal details : dolphin foot, eagle head, elephant head, eagle chick hatching from egg.
Napoléon took this service in his exile on the island of Elba. In 1829 it was presented as a wedding gift by the former king Jérôme to his son. It will be dispersed in the 20th century. Subsets sometimes appear at auction. A group of 12 plates was sold for £ 81K including premium by Bonhams on July 5, 2018.
Abby Aldrich Rockefeller owned 22 pieces acquired around 1940. This set of 12 plates, 6 compotiers, a cooler, two sugar bowls and a jatte surfaced in the collection of her son David auctioned by Christie's on May 9, 2018. It was sold for $ 1.8M including premium from a lower estimate of $ 150K, lot 118.
1833 The Gigantic Porcelains of St. Petersburg
2013 SOLD 2.2 M£ including premium
This exceptional lot is now estimated £ 2M, for sale by Sotheby's in London on November 26. I republish below my article issued before the cancellation of the Dallas auction lot.
In a style imitating Sèvres, the porcelains from the Imperial Factory of St. Petersburg reached gigantic sizes in the reign of Nicholas I, becoming one of the best symbols of the Tsarist opulence at that time. These vases, most often presented in pairs, are true engineering feats.
During the 1920s that were so difficult economically for Russia, one of these pairs was purchased by an American oil tycoon to garnish his mansion in Oklahoma City. They were in this place since so long that the heirs were not aware of their historical importance and felt them rather cumbersome.
Like all other pieces in this category, they are bandeau shaped with gilt handles of acanthus leaves. The picture on one of them, showing a concert, is a copy of a painting that was lent by the Hermitage to the Factory in 1832 to serve as a model.
The porcelains of Oklahoma are dated 1833 and their height, 1.38 m, is particularly noteworthy. The later pair unsold at Christie's in November 2011, dated 1835 and 1836, had the same size. Made still later, in 1848, the pair sold £ 2.6 million including premium by Sotheby's on 10 June 2009 had the largest size reached during the reign of Nicholas, 1.50 m.
POST SALE COMMENT
This lot was sold for £ 2.2 million including premium, confirming the opinion of Sotheby's that it is one of the most beautiful pair of vases from St. Petersburg.
I invite you to play the video shared by Sotheby's :
1848 The Presentation of the Porcelains to the Tsar
2009 SOLD 2.6 M£ including premium
Financially, these gifts were offset by increasing orders from the Emperor for offering similar pieces to his allies in the ruling royal and ducal families of other countries. I have already had occasion to note in this group the role that gifting had for aristocratic cohesion at the Imperial court of Russia.
The pair of porcelain vases from St. Petersburg that Sotheby's is selling in London on June 10 is a technical feat. Dated 1848, 1.5 meters high, it is the largest format that has been done at that time by this factory.
These enormous vases are adorned with ring shaped reproductions of paintings from the collection of Catherine the Great, in this case two stables scenes of Philips Wouwerman.
Russians love the memories of the palace. The estimate also is imperial: £ 1.2 million.
POST SALE COMMENT
The estimate was literally exploded, which is rare at such a price level. This confirms the exceptional nature of this pair of vases, sold £ 2.6 million including premium.
1970 Bar aux Autruches by François-Xavier Lalanne
2017 SOLD for € 6.2M including premium by Sotheby's
narrated in 2020
Georges Pompidou was a great sponsor of contemporary art. His accession to the presidency of the French Republic in 1969 encouraged new projects.
In 1970 Lalanne edits two very prestigious bars using the new ultra-white porcelain. The Grasshopper Bar, 175 cm long, is produced in two copies only. One was offered by President Pompidou to Queen Elizabeth II in 1972. The other was sold for $ 1.64M including premium by Sotheby's on May 24, 2018.
The Bar aux Autruches, 194 cm long overall, is much original in its design. The tray is held on each side in the beak of an ostrich. The standing birds turn their backs each other for the balance. The folding wings open laterally on a bottle rack. The tray is centered with a removable ice bucket in the shape of an egg. The ostriches are dated 1967 and bear the mark of the Manufacture de Sèvres.
The Ostrich bar was assembled in six units. One of them is exhibited in the permanent collections of the Musée de Sèvres and another one was deposited at the Palais de l'Elysée at the request of Pompidou. Another copy was sold for € 6.2M including premium by Sotheby's on November 21, 2017 over a lower estimate of € 700K, lot 40.