Pair of Vases, ca. 1770–75
Gilt bronze by Pierre Gouthière (1732–1813)
Alabaster probably carved by Augustin Bocciardi (1719–1797) or Pierre-Jean-Baptiste Delaplanche
After a design by François-Joseph Bélanger (1744–1832)
Alabaster, green marble, and gilt bronze
The seventh entry in the sale catalogue for the Duke of Aumont’s collections consisted of two large, handsome columns of verde antico marble discovered in 1766 near the Temple of Vesta in Rome (see inset). On top, each had an alabaster vase described in the catalogue as “interesting” and with ornamentation “of an excellent type . . . perfectly carried out.”
Louis XVI acquired the full set of items. While the columns were kept in the Salle des Antiques at the Louvre, the vases were left in a storehouse for more than twenty years. In 1793, they were transferred to the Muséum du Louvre, but they clearly fell out of favor: in October 1797 — on orders from the Ministry of Finance and to cover the costs of establishing the new museum — these two alabaster vases “of mediocre quality” were sold. The fairly low price of the estimate was clearly determined by the defective alabaster and not by Gouthière’s mounts, the originality and execution of which are almost without equal. In particular, the laurel leaves so realistically capture the density and variety of a branch of blossoming laurel that they look as if cast from nature.
One of a Pair of Columns. Gilt bronze by Pierre Gouthière probably after a design by François-Joseph Bélanger, ca. 1775–80. Verde antico marble, gilt bronze, each column, overall 102 3/8 × 13 in.; diam. 9 in. Musée du Louvre, Paris; Founding collection