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Department of Decorative Arts: 18th century: rococo
© Musée du Louvre/M. Beck-Coppola
18th century: rococo
The Louvre possesses several silver bowls. All are different in terms of workmanship and date, but this one stands out for its sobriety. The hallmarks indicate that it was made at the height of the rocaille period, and it is attributed to Thomas Germain, the leading silversmith of the time, whose repertoire included several models of tureens.
The use of bowls
Bowls are a case apart among objets d'art. Never considered tableware, they were used solely for drinking broth at breakfast. The user drank by lifting the bowl to his lips. Bowls were generally accompanied by a tray or stand, to make them easier to use.
An extremely sober work
Smooth and shallow, the body of the bowl has two handles, each formed by a horizontally coiled snake. The equally smooth, slightly domed lid is decorated with a central rosette of spiral fluting and reeding. At the center of the rosette is a circular handle, the vertically coiled serpent of which is similar to those of the handles on the sides: the three serpents are treated identically, with fine silver striations representing the scales. With the rosette, the serpents are the piece's sole ornamentation. This extremely elegant bowl illustrates the changing shape of this kind of object: compared to that of Louis XIV's son, the Grand Dauphin, this one is much flatter and less ornate.
The attribution to Thomas Germain
However, if we compare this bowl to the one made by Germain for Cardinal da Motta at the same period, the same difference is evident. The bowl is much more austere than that of the cardinal, with its elaborately natural decoration. The attribution to Thomas Germain is based on the hallmark and on the piece's purity of form. The bowl reveals another facet of the artist's talent and perhaps another approach, designed for a less wealthy clientele. This would explain its simplicity and the absence of any coat of arms.
BibliographyVingt ans d'acquisition du Musée du Louvre 1947-1967, Paris, Editions de la Réunion des musées nationaux, 1967, p. 78.
Attributed to Thomas Germain (circa 1673-1748)
H. 9 cm; W. 30 cm
Gift of David David-Weill, 1949
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