Hans Ottomeyer and Peter Pröschel, “Vergoldete Bronzen”, 1986, p. 259, pl. 4.7.12, illustrating a candelabrum of circa 1780, with lily-wrapped candle branches issuing from a gilt bronze mounted plain blue Sèvres porcelain vase of the same design as here with very similar mounts consisting of entwined serpent handles, a stiff leaf cup and spreading foot, in the Jones Collection, Victoria and Albert Museum, London.
A very fine pair of Louis XVI gilt bronze mounted white porcelain vases by Locré, Fabrique de la Courtille, stamped with blue underglaze crossed torch marks inside the neck, each of classical form with a baluster shaped body, an elongated neck and splaying rim, mounted either side with gilt bronze entwined serpent handles that continue down either side of the body, the heads of the two snakes resting just above a continuous snakeskin ring around the shoulder of the vase, the vase supported in a gilt bronze stiff leaf cup on a spreading stem and wreath-wrapped foot on a square base with gadrooned band
Paris, date circa 1780
Height 28 cm. each.
These elegant gilt bronze mounted porcelain vases made by Locré, Fabrique de la Courtille epitomise Europe’s growing interest in Antiquity during the latter quarter of the eighteenth century. At that period the Paris Porcelain Factories were much influenced by pieces produced by the Royal Sèvres Manufactory, as evidenced by the similarity between this pair and the Sèvres vase candelabrum in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London (noted above). Another pair of white porcelain vases by Locré, each mounted with rams’ head handles but with a similar gilt bronze cup, foot and base was once owned by the artist, architect and interior and landscape designer Emilio Terry and included in his sale held by Christie’s Paris, 15th September 2016, lot 118.
One of the most productive of the Paris Porcelain Factories, Locré, Fabrique de la Courtille was established by Jean-Baptiste Locré (1726-87), who in 1773 opened a porcelain factory at La Courtille in the rue Fontaine-au-Roi in Paris. Ongoing success was assured when in 1777 Locré went into partnership with the German born modeller Laurent or Laurentius Russinger (1739-1810), who had previously worked at the Höchst factory. In about 1790 Locré and Russinger introduced a new manufacturing technique for the production of their hard paste porcelain. Following Locré’s death, Russinger went into partnership with François Pouyat (1752-1838) and continued until 1808 when the association was terminated. When Russinger died in 1810, Pouyat’s three sons acquired the concern; then in 1816 they and a new partner Guillaume Le Bourgeois transferred the venture to Fours in the Nièvre region. By this time the factory was specialising in the production of white porcelain and continued at Fours under successive ownership until about 1865.
Having previously worked in Leipzig, Jean-Baptiste Locré initially intended to produce wares similar to porcelain and faience made in Germany even to the extent that his factory mark of two crossed torches resembled the crossed swords used by Meissen. Despite Germanic inspiration it was not long before his porcelain began reflecting French designs, particularly those pieces made at Sèvres. At first the sobriety of the Louis XVI style was combined with the undulating forms of the Louis XV period so that lobed borders were common and certain pieces were made in the shape of fluted shells. As the century progressed into the early 1800s forms became simplified but while contours were less fussy they were ornamented with applied relief decoration. Vases and ewers were some of the factory’s most popular items, of which one early nineteenth century ewer was decorated with a relief mask of Napoleon Bonaparte under the spout. The factory’s production also included dinner services, tea, coffee and chocolate services, dessert services and candlesticks as well as showpieces including large and important vases as well as a number of biscuit groups and portrait busts. The factory’s porcelain always had a clear and brilliant glaze and as here was sometimes simply of a single colour. However eighteenth century pieces were more commonly painted with swags or scatterings of single flowers whilst in the following century a more varied decoration was introduced, either painted en grisaille or polychrome. Some pieces were painted with arabesques in the Pompeian manner, whilst landscapes with or without figures, religious and mythological scenes were also popular decorative devices.
The simplicity of the present porcelain is perfectly offset by the beauty and intricacies of the brightly toned gilt mounts. These would have been made by one of the Parisian bronziers, almost certainly under the direction of one of the marchands-mercier, who not only catered to French society’s desire for mounted porcelains but also encouraged such a fashion. Snakes or serpents often featured within Neo-classical designs, as they also were in ancient Greco-Roman arts. Associated with a variety of symbols varying from eternity, fertility, wisdom as well the power to heal, the snake was also the symbol of Prudence personified; they also formed the hair of Medusa whilst the handling of snakes formed some of Bacchic rituals and therefore became an attribute of his attendant satyrs. As a purely decorative device their sinuous lines perfectly suited certain designs and with the more overt Neo-classical foot and base perfectly offset these superb vases.