A superb late nineteenth century Classical silver vase attributed to Aucoc, the rim cast with a stiff leaf border ornamented with foliate scrolls above the neck cast with the figure of a youthful Bacchus holding a lyre riding on a lion above an egg and dart and acanthus border flanked by a pair of foliate wrapped scrolled handles terminating in rams' head masks, the body cast with a frieze of dancing maenads holding hands, some with musical instruments and others a cup, above a fruiting vine leaf band and elaborate classical decorations of acanthus leaves, rosettes and scrolls, the spreading foot ornamented at the top with a stiff leaf border on a square base
Paris, date circa 1880-90
Stamped with a silver purity mark
Height 62 cm.
This superb solid silver vase is decorated overall with many symbols or attributes associated with Bacchus, the ancient god of wine. Around the body is a frieze of dancing maenads, the female followers of the god. Above them, at the base of the scrolled handles are two rams' heads, again animals that were associated with Bacchic revelry. Then at the neck is the figure of the young Bacchus riding on a lion, yet another beast commonly associated with the god of wine; in addition there is a band of fruiting vines placed just beneath the dancing maenads.
The design of the vase is essentially a synthesis of the Louis XVI and Empire styles - a combination which the Parisian firm of Aucoc were particularly renowned and for which they gained great success as leading followers of past historical styles. The figure of Bacchus for instance appears to be a direct copy from a design of 1789 by Jean Démosthène Dugourc (1749-1825) for a central decoration above a stretcher of a console table (illustrated in Ulrich Leben, "Molitor, Ebéniste from the Ancien Régime to the Bourbon Restoration", 1992, p. 95, pl. 86). The style of the rams' heads dates from about the same period, often appearing on silver and gilt bronze luxury works of art. The frieze of dancers which look back to the slightly later period; in particular they can be compared with those appearing on a number of Directoire and Empire gilt bronzes created by Pierre-Philippe Thomire (1751-1843), for instance around the frieze of a magnificent plinth supporting his Cupid and Psyche clock of 1799 now in the Hermitage Museum, Saint-Petersburg (illustrated in Hans Ottomeyer and Peter Pröschel, "Vergoldete Bronzen", 1986, p. 321).
Aucoc, who was one of the leading Paris silversmithing firms during the nineteenth and early twentieth century, were at times pioneers of fashion yet like contemporaries such as Christofle or Boin-Taburet, from about the 1860's up until the end of the century, the firm gained inspiration from past historical styles. During this period they made a range of historically inspired pieces from Rococo style statuettes based on pieces of 1757-58 by Ambroise Nicolas Cousinet, Louis XVI style candelabra based on a design by Antoine Bouillier of 1787 as well as a very elaborate Empire style tri-form figural silver gilt and marble guéridon.
Established in 1821, Aucoc was run by successive generations of which Louis Aucoc (1829-1914), known as Aucoc Ainé and son of Jean-Baptiste Aucoc was one of the first and in turn was succeed by two of his sons Louis (1850-1932) and André (b. 1856). The firm had a prominent show room at rue de la Paix, Paris (where in 1899 Cartier opened up a shop). Such was the finesse of Aucoc's work that the firm was patronised by the court of King Louis Philippe and the Orléans family, also by Napoleon III and his wife the Empresse Eugénie as well as the British monarch Queen Victoria. Setting quality as paramount, Aucoc produced a diverse range of luxury objects, from early nineteenth century nécessaires de voyage and elaborate toilette sets to centrepieces, statuettes, candelabra, furniture, jewellery and sporting trophies.