Important pair of neo-Greek vases
Signed F. Levillain and F. Barbedienne
Height. : 146 cm (57 1/2 in.) ; Diam. : 43 cm (17 in.)
The model of these Etruscan Amphoras had been exposed at the 1878 Paris Universal Exhibition.
Each with a waisted neck raised with bearded satyr masks supporting foliate and fruit swags, the tapering body with upper band cast with birds, wild animals and vases of fruit, above central bands, on one side depicting a seated youth supporting a basket of ducks and a rabbit, conversing with a maiden carrying a fruit-laden basket; the reverse side depicting a peacock, goat and altars supporting baskets of fruit, applied with loop handles with anthemion terminals, seated sphinxes among scrolling foliage, with fluted lower section. Supported on a triple anthemion-cast lion-paw monopodiae, on tri-form acanthus-cast base. Reposing on moulded green marble bases.
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 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.
Works to be linked
A similar pair of vases is now displayed at the Paris Decorative Arts Museum (inv. 997.117.2 et 997.117.3).
Catalogue sommaire illustré des arts décoratifs, Musée d’Orsay, RMN, Paris, 1988.
The illustrated catalogue of the Paris International Exhibition 1878, Virtue & Co., p°153.
« L’Art décoratif », La médaille française contemporaine, Ch. Saunier, 1901, p° 65 et 67.
Great Exhibitions 1851-1900, Jonathan Meyer, Antique Collector’s Club, 2006, p°260.
Exposition Universelle de 1878, Rapport sur les bronzes d’art, Groupe III, Classe 25, p° 26.