A large “Dionysos” display dish
named “Bacchus Education”
Signed F. Levillain and F. Barbedienne
Height : 14 cm (5 1/2 in.) ; Width : 69 x 57 cm (27 x 22 1/2 in.)
Superb large Greek-style display dish made with two patina bronze. Decorated in the middle of a scene depicting an ancient man, a thyrsus in his feet (stick wrapped in ivy), pressing his hands a bunch of grapes, the juice collected in a cup is drunk by a young child. An inscription written in the Greek way, “Dionysus” recalls the theme of the decor “Bacchus Education”.
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 », Ferdinand Levillain went on to win a silver medal at the 1889 Paris Universal Exhibition.
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, Carrier-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.