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Work Pair of urns

Department of Decorative Arts: 19th century

Deux vases dits séditieux dissimulant dans leurs contours les profils de Louis XVI et de Marie-Antoinette

© 2003 RMN / Jean-Gilles Berizzi

Decorative Arts
19th century

Isabelle Balandre

The distinctive feature of these small, decorative, turned wood urns is that they hide the profiles of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette. The two images are not immediately visible, but appear through an optical effect between the lower belly and upper base of each piece.

Urn-shaped vases

The form of these elegant, seemingly identical ornamental vases was inspired by architecture. Each small, ovoid urn stands on a high base resembling the shaft of a column, and is made of finely turned mahogany decorated with gilded bronze. A small chain on the column is held in place by four rings, and the vase is embellished with three rows of beads and two buttons in the place of handles. At the top of each urn is a fixed lid, topped by a bronze pine cone.

Seditious objects

The superb quality of the turning should not distract from the hidden feature of these vases: though innocuous at first glance, they actually hide the profiles of the king and queen which stand out in negative silhouette in the contours of the urns. Their shape, which closely resembles a type of funerary urn, indicates that they were made after 1793—the year of the death of both Louis XVI (January 21) and Marie Antoinette (October 16).

These items were no doubt commissioned by royalists; they were a means of evoking the royal family, and of paying tribute to a pre-revolutionary age without fear of reprisals. "Seditious" engravings were also made, in which figures were hidden.


- Nouvelles Acquisitions des Objets d'art 1995-2002, coordination : Jannic Durand, assisté de Danièle Kriser. - Paris : RMN, 2003.

Technical description

  • France (début du XIXe siècle)

    Deux vases dits séditieux dissimulant dans leurs contours les profils de Louis XVI et de Marie-Antoinette

  • H. : 14 cm.

  • Don M. Pierre Jourdan-Barry, en souvenir de ses parents Raymond et Mireille Jourdan-Barry, 1996 , 1996

    Two so-called "seditious" vases whose contours conceal the profiles of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette

    OA 11833, OA 11834

  • Decorative Arts

    Richelieu wing
    1st floor
    Claude Ott
    Room 560
    Vitrine 3

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