Pair of Mounted Petrified Wood Vases

Pair of Mounted Petrified Wood Vases
French, c. 1740–50
Petrified wood, gilt bronze
13 1/4 x 8 1/2 x 5 1/2 in. (33.7 x 21.6 x 14 cm)
Private collection

Location: West Vestibule

Carved from fossilized wood polished to a reflective, stone-like surface, this unique pair of vases embodies the exotic, lavish taste of eighteenth-century collectors. Natural materials, such as agate, porphyry, and marble, were frequently fashioned into decorative objects. Made hard and polychromatic over time, fossilized wood — principally mined in Saxony and Hungary and exported to wealthy artistic centers — was an especially prized commodity. 

Added by a marchand mercier (dealer of luxury goods), the gilded mounts accentuate the shape and hint at the material of the central vase. The chased bronze feet resemble rough-hewn, jagged tree bark, and the handles blend c-scrollwork with leaves. The foliation is styled to curl outward or turn upward, mingling organic and architectural elements.