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Work Incense Burner

Department of Decorative Arts: 18th century: neoclassicism

"Cassolette" (incense burner)

© 2007 RMN / Martine Beck-Coppola

Decorative Arts
18th century: neoclassicism

Author(s):
Muriel Barbier

The queen Marie-Antoinette (1755-1793) was particularly fond of gemstones, which she had mounted into objects to decorate her rooms at the Château de Versailles. The agate incense burner in the Louvre comes from her Grand Cabinet there. It is the work of the jeweler to the king Charles Ouizille (1744-1830) and the miniaturist painter Jacques-Joseph De Gault (about 1738-1812). This work, by virtue of its ornamentation and the choice of materials, is emblematic of neoclassicism.

The agate incense burner

The agate cup was probably cut by a Parisian lapidary, and it may be that its shape was inspired by the cup of the Ptolemies, conserved at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France. It was transformed into a cassolette with the addition of a gold openwork mounting by the jeweler Charles Ouizille (1744-1830). This incense burner has a lid topped by a seed-pod and edged in oak leaves. The rim of the cup is adorned with an openwork frieze of interlacing florets. The shoulder is marked by a garland of flowers and fruit, from which derive the handles, decorated with acanthus leaves. The incense burner rests on four short cabriole legs. The very Classical inspiration of this gold decoration is particularly fitting, given the mythological subjects of the miniatures on the base.

Classical-style miniatures

The base is built up in a gold armature. Square in section, it is composed of four plaques of bloodstone upon which are mounted four miniatures under glass, painted by Jacques-Joseph De Gault (1744-1830). Framed by a wreath of roses hanging from a knotted ribbon, these miniatures reproduce engravings taken from gemstones. On one face, De Gault represented Cupid holding an arrow and begging the return of his bow from Venus; on the second, a man attempting to hold back Cupid; on the third, Venus confiscating Cupid's bow; and on the fourth, Hercules at rest. The first and the fourth miniatures reproduce two carnelian intaglios engraved by Jean-Pierre Mariette. The second is inspired by a stone by Levesque de Gravelle, a scene that again appears on a box by Pierre-François Drais, also conserved at the Louvre.

Fruitful collaborations

Ouizille produced many snuffboxes and small objects using a variety of techniques, which earned him great success and the title of jeweler to the king in 1784, a title he shared with Pierre-François Drais. Jacques-Joseph De Gault provided these jewelers with miniatures to decorate their works. Two other objects conserved at the Louvre illustrate this collaboration as well as Marie-Antoinette's taste for gemstones. Both are signed by Ouizille and Drais: a casket made of cage-mounted plaques of agate that are edged with bloodstone and a pedestal of red jasper set upon a granite base. These two extremely fine objects illustrate the refinement of the decorative arts under Louis XVI.

Bibliography

Catalogue d'exposition : "Nouvelles acquisitions du département des Objets d'art 1980-1984", Paris, Éditions de la Réunion des musées nationaux, 1985, pp. 93-96

Technical description

  • Charles OUIZILLE

    "Cassolette" (incense burner)

    1784-85

    Paris

  • Charles Ouizille, goldsmith; Jacques-Joseph de Gault, painter
    Gold, agate; bloodstone; miniatures under glass

    H. 27.50 cm; W. 12 cm; D. 9.20 cm

  • Collection of Marie-Antoinette; King Farouk of Egypt collection; acquired in 1982 , 1982

    OA 10907

  • Decorative Arts

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Additional information about the work

Hallmarks: Master mark: Charles Ouizille (CO and clover leaf, under base);Assay mark: Paris 1783-1789 (2 intertwined Ls, idem); Municipal mark: Paris 1784-1785 (crowned P84, idem); Tax duty mark: