Pair of Orientalist Vases
Signed RSA Bellanger
Height : 24 cm (9,4 in.) ; Diameter : 9,5 cm (3,7 in.)
Small pair of polychrome enamel and ivory ceramic vases with gold-rimmed neck, decorated with trompe-l’œil handles in the shape of rings. They are adorned on the belly of painted orientalist water carrier and zither player in four-lobed medallions surrounded by a golden net and an enamel frieze of orientalist interlacing. They rest on a gilded bronze base decorated with pearls and ending with four hooves feet.
The word « Orientalism » appears around 1830, while the 17th and 18th centuries already developed with a large fantasy the “Turquerie” theme. This trend imbued with exoticism and picturesque can be found in the decoration of Marie-Antoinette and Comte d’Artois’ private apartments at the end of the 1780’s. It is in the 19th century, with the Bonaparte-led Egypt expedition of 1798 that the craze for Orient, its mysteries, beauty, eroticism and light fascinates. However, the overtaking of Alger by the French in 1830 remains the real starting point of this artistic movement and of the apparition of the term Orientalism.
In France, Orientalists became famous during the Second Empire. Emperor Napoleon III, aristocrats as much as the bourgeoisie searching for exoticism filled up order books of renowned artists. It is not primarily the academic style of the Orientalists that matter, but mostly the exoticism of their pieces that fascinate the public; such as the sculptor Charles Cordier (1827-1905) who innovates with the polychrome marbles and onyx from Algeria, or Emile Guillemin (1841-1907) whose works are edited by Ferdinand Barbedienne (1810-1892). Those artists joined scientific expeditions in Orient, in order to report cultures of a multi-ethnic civilisation. This documentary and naturalist approach shows a political and cultural desire to preserve anthropological and geographic testimony.