Department of Decorative Arts: 19th century
© 1995 RMN / Daniel Arnaudet
This monumental ewer, probably from a model by the sculptor Jean-Baptiste-Jules Klagmann (1810-67), is an homage to Bacchus, god of wine. Decorated with friezes in high and low relief, it is the work of an exceptional silversmith, whose identity, in the absence of any mark, remains unknown.
A monumental ewer
This ornamental ewer comes from the collection of Mme Bro de Commères, which in 1900 also contained a second ewer similar to this one. The Louvre ewer is a meter in height, an impressive size for a piece of silver. Its form is that of a Renaissance ewer. It stands on a small foot, below a knop in the form of a flattened knot. The ovoid body has a long, slender handle and an extended neck with a long, flared lip. The whole surface of the ewer is decorated with low relief and sculpture in the round, obscuring its form.
In keeping with one function of this type of vessel, wine is the theme of its rich decoration. The foot has a step covered with bunches of grapes, two children astride a swan, a gryphon, and two nymphs riding dolphins. The body is covered by a continuous frieze of antique figures, very densely composed. On one side are Bacchus, with his thyrsus, and Ariadne, accompanied by women and children. On the other side a Dionysiac celebration, involving bacchantes, satyrs, and men, is at its height. This frieze of intertwined figures was undoubtedly inspired by Roman Dionysiac sarcophagi. Beneath the lip, a child seated on a turtle brandishes a club. Finally, the handle is adorned with a figure of Ganymede, who would become the cup-bearer to the gods, after being abducted by Jupiter in the form of an eagle.
Uncertainty as to the maker
The design of the piece has been attributed to the sculptor Jean-Baptiste-Jules Klagmann, who specialized in the Renaissance Revival style. It is known that he often provided goldsmiths with models, and there are stylistic similarities between this Bacchus ewer and other works by him, such as the Emmery vase executed by François-Désiré Froment-Meurice, which has the same exuberant ornamentation and aversion to empty space. Yet the second ewer in the Bro de Commères collection was from a model by Jean Feuchère (1807-52), chased by Antoine Vechte (1799-1868), and the similarity between the two pieces is striking. What is more, other famous silversmiths, such as Duponchel, Morel, or the Fannières brothers, cannot be excluded. There is, unfortunately, no mark to identify the maker.
BibliographyAlcouffe D., Bascou M., Dion-Tenenbaum A., Masse M.-M., Posseme E., "Une dation récente : un important ensemble d'orfèvrerie des XIXe et XXe siècles", in La Revue du Louvre et des Musées de France, n 1, 1996, p. 82.
Dernières acquisitions du département des Objets d'art (1990-1994), Paris, Editions de la Réunion des musées nationaux, 1995, pp. 252-255.
Un Age d'or des Arts décoratifs 1814-1848, Paris, 1991, pp. 454-455.
H. : 1,01 m. ; D. : 0,26 m. ; L. : 0,46 m.
Commandée par Olivier baron Bro de Comères ; dation en paiement des droits de successions, 1994. , 1994
Duc de Nemours
The Louvre is open every day (except Tuesday) from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.