Vase of the Arts

Albert-Ernest Carrier-Belleuse (1824-1887), sculptor
Christofle Company
Paris, c. 1880
Presented at the World’s Fair in Amsterdam in 1883
Patinated, silver-plated and gilded bronze
Gift of Madame de Clermont, 1919
Inv. 21186
© Les Arts Décoratifs, Paris / photo: Jean Tholance

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This monumental Vase of the Arts designed by the sculptor Albert-Ernest Carrier-Belleuse was produced by the Christofle silver making company in honor of the senator Charles Dietz-Monnin, president of the French section of the World’s Fair in Amsterdam in 1883. It reflects the “neo-Greek” movement – the fashion for Greek antiquity that developed in France during the second half of the nineteenth century. Topped by a figure of Minerva holding palm leaves and garlands, the vase is adorned with four allegories of the arts: Sculpture, Painting, Architecture and Engraving, each placed above a mask of the Gorgon (from Greek mythology) and an owl with outspread wings. The base is accentuated by a frieze of palmettes and scrolls, inspired by ancient Greek decorative motifs.

Although its aesthetic looks to the past, the Vase of the Arts illustrates the technical innovations introduced by the Christofle firm. It is made of bronze, silver-plated and gilded by the electrolysis technique which uses electricity. The reddish tints on the body of the vase, imitating ancient Greek pottery, were produced by chemically created patinas.

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