L’Escalier de Cristal
Designer and art object Editor
Japaneses style Planter
Enamel, Gilded bronze
Height : 54 cm (21,2 in.) ; Width : 48 cm (18,9 in.)
Large planter decorated on the belly with a rotating decoration of polychrome flowers and geometric patterns in cloisonne enamel on a red background. It is inserted in an important patinated and gilded bronze frame composed of openwork friezes on the neck and winding handles ending with a Fô dog head. It rests on a base with four elephant heads elegantly adorned, leaning on a square base decorated with engraved and chiseled flowers.
“L’Escalier de Cristal”, an old and famous Parisian firm, specialized in glass products and ceramics but also suggested furniture and bronze sculptures. It was led from 1885 to 1923 by Emile Pannier’s sons, who gave the name of Pannier Frères to the society, located at the corner of Scribe street and Auber street, next to the new built Paris Opera house. Their Japanese style creations were among many others much appreciated by the critics and the public. They were awarded many medals at various exhibitions, such as the Gold medal at the 1900 Paris Universal Exhibition. Lots of artists participated in that world success, such as Emile Gallé, who gave to Pannier Frères the exclusive rights of some of his models, or François-Eugène Rousseau, who designed many vases and gave the model of his successful Japanese style dining-set as well. This set was made by the Creil et Montereau Manufacture. In the Japanese style furniture branch, many famous makers such as Majorelle from Nancy, Edouard Lièvre or Gabriel Viardot worked for Pannier Frères. Some pieces are to be seen in the greatest museums: the Ermitage in Saint-Petersburg, the Orsay Museum in Paris, the Corning Museum of Glass in New York. The Maison “L’Escalier de Cristal” was sometimes the exclusive owner of the models and then those pieces were just signed by “L’Escalier de Cristal” or sometimes beside the artist signature. But “L’Escalier de Cristal” was also very creative, completing pieces with superb gilded bronzes, glass or enameled panels and often including authentic Japanese or Chinese elements.
Edouard Lièvre (1829-1886) studied under the painter Thomas Couture (1815-1879), one of the more conspicuous artists in the circle of the Empress Eugenie. E. Lièvre soon devoted himself, however, to the art of furniture design. A talented ornamentalist, marked by the eclecticism typical of the Second Empire, Lièvre knew how to avail himself of skillful collaborators in order to create pieces in various styles: Renaissance, Louis 16th or Oriental, which last were part of the great artistic movement in fashion since the 1860’s: the Japanese style named also Aesthetic Movement. they recreated an imaginary Far East adapted to decorate Western reception rooms. As an Interior decorator Lièvre also matched his luxurious and refined furniture with bronzes, ceramics and even fabrics. This Oriental exoticism, which only the richest could afford, appealed to bankers, judges, artists and famous courtesans as well as the Royal and Princely families. After the death of Edouard Lièvre, the greater part of his models, sketches and cabinet designs were bought by art publishers such as « l’Escalier de Cristal » or by Ferdinand Barbedienne, thus giving them the right to reproduce Lièvre’s furniture with their own stamp (see « Ventes de la succession Lièvre », Hotel Drouot, 27 fevrier 1890).
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