The Wallace Collection

The Wallace Collection, A Family Collection, A National Museum, An International Treasure House
Vase and cover
  • Vase and cover
  • Robert-Joseph Auguste (1723 - 1805) , Carver , (mounts)
  • France
  • 1760 - 1765
  • Porphyry and gilt bronze
  • Height: 54 cm
    Width: 47.5 cm
  • Incised mark: 'A'
    Incised mark: 'N'
  • F355
  • Front State Room
Further Reading
  • The interest in archaeological excavations of the Roman world in the first half of the 18th century strongly influenced the decorative arts in France and from the late 1750s designs were produced which looked to antique sources for their inspiration. Of particular importance were vases, many of which had survived since antiquity or were represented in decorative wall paintings. Architects and designers produced hundreds of designs for vases for all types of materials, and some of the most costly were made in hardstone and mounted with gilt bronze ornament.
    This vase was probably carved in Paris, using porphyry that had been brought back from Rome. The gilt bronze mounts were cast, and possibly also chased, by the goldsmith Robert-Joseph Auguste. The employment of a goldsmith to cast the mounts is unusual but not exceptional. Auguste was also employed by the architect Charles de Wailly for the mounts of a pedestal and vase made for the marquis de Voyer in 1763-4 (also in the Wallace Collection, F291 and F354).
    Although the mounts, with the Greek key pattern and grotesque masks, may seem fairly typical of the early 1760s, their design probably derives in part from a 17th-century source: the serpent handles are reminiscent of those in one of the etchings in Stefano della Bella’s (1610-64) ‘Raccolta di Vasi Diversi’, published in about 1646. This handle design was influential in the Louis XVI period, for example it is found on the pair of vases of petrified wood which belonged to Marie-Antoinette and are now in the Musée Nissim de Camondo in Paris.
    This vase is probably the one noted by the commentator Hébert in 1766 in the salon of the hôtel of the noted collector and art patron, Blondel de Gagny. Hébert specifically mentioned Auguste as the author of the gilt bronze mounts.