Pair of neo-Greek lamps
Signed F. Levillain inv. and F. Barbedienne
Height : 71 cm (28 in.) ; Diameter : 19 cm (7 1/2 in.)
Pair of two patina bronze lamps made in shape of ancient vases. A rich decor made in low-relief depicts scenes in the ancient style, such gods riding their chariots and cupids holding up cups and riding panthers symbolizing Bacchus, God of wine. Many masks, vine branches, musical instruments and other drinking objects supplement the neo-Greek motifs on the surface of the vase.
Ferdinand Levillain (Paris, 1837-1905) studied under the sculptor Jouffroy (1806-1882), before making his debut in 1861 at the French Artists Salon where he continued to exhibit until 1903. At the 1867 Universal Exhibition in Paris, he was praised for a Neo-Greek style bronze cup he made for the firm Blot and Drouard. He was not to become really famous, however, until 1871 thanks to his association with the great bronze founder Ferdinand Barbedienne, who began to exhibit Neo-Greek style lamps, cups, vases and candelabras on his stands. Levillain was overwhelmingly triumphant at the 1878 Universal Exhibition in Paris, where he was unanimously awarded the gold medal for his creations in the Classical style. The famous bronze caster Servant (1828-c.1890) declared in the report of the jury for Artistic Bronzes that the work of Levillain « chased like the finest jewels » and « so diverse and pure of form (…) are of the highest degree of perfection ». After receiving a first class medal at the 1884 Salon for a cup entitled « The Elements, the Months and the Seasons », he went on to win a silver medal at the 1889 Universal Exhibition in Paris.
Born in 1810, Ferdinand Barbedienne started one of the most famous 19th century artistic bronze casting companies. He died in 1892. In addition to his personal production, he worked for famous artists such as Clésinger, Carrière-Belleuse and Guillemin. Barbedienne’s production was always highly esteemed and he was, himself admired by contemporary art critics who compared him during the 1878 Universal Exhibition to a « prince of industry and the king of bronze-casting ». In the catalogue of the Exhibition, Barbedienne was considered as the leader among 19th century bronze casters, because of the exquisit quality of his bronzes.
Levillain’s works in connection
Orsay Museum, Paris : Gilded brass Vase with cover (OAO 68) ; A Neo-Greek style gilded brass Bowl (OAO 69). Beaux-Arts Museum, Lyon : Vases
Catalogue sommaire illustré des arts décoratifs, Musée d’Orsay, RMN, Paris, 1988.
« L’Art décoratif », La médaille française contemporaine, Ch. Saunier, 1901, p° 65 et 67.
Exposition Universelle de 1878, Rapport sur les bronzes d’art, Groupe III, Classe 25, p° 26.
« Le livre d’or du Salon de peinture et scukpture », Exposition des Beaux-Arts, G. Lafenestre, Paris, 1884.