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An extremely fine pair of Empire gilt and patinated bronze ewers attributed to Claude Galle, each of elongated baluster form mounted around the collar and base with stylized palmettes and acanthus leaves, the spout applied with a bearded male mask and balanced by a channelled and pearled scrolled handle supported on a putto mask and terminated above by a winged classical maiden clasping the rim, on a spreading circular domed foot on a square gilt bronze base
Paris, date circa 1810-15
Height 62 cm. each.
Literature: Paul Marmottan, “Le Style Empire”, 1925, vol. III, pl. 22, illustrating the interior of the Petit Boudoir at La Malmaison, built for the Empress, showing near identical ewers placed on the mantelpiece before a mirror. Hans Ottomeyer and Peter Pröschel, “Vergoldete Bronzen”, 1986, p. 364, pl. 5.12.6, illustrating an almost identical pair of ewers with additional mounts to the body attributed to Claude Galle which form a garniture with a vase-shaped clock of corresponding design. Arcadi Gaydamak, “Russian Empire, Architecture, Decorative and Applied Arts, Interior Decoration 1800-1830”, 2000, p. 171, illustrating the Blue Sitting Room in the Yusupov Palace showing a pair of gilt bronze ewers of the same design on the mantelpiece before a mirror.
Similar examples of Galle ewers include a pair at Pavlovsk Palace, St. Petersburg, a pair in the Ostankino Palace, Moscow, another in the Württemberg Landesmuseum, Stuttgart and another pair formerly in the collection of the Earls of Essex, Cassiobury Park during the nineteenth century. The latter almost certainly being those sold from the Ojjeh Collection, Christie’s Monaco, 11-12 December 1999, lot 153.
Among distinguished works made by Claude Galle (1759-1815) were a number of ewers, urns, vases and clock cases, which as here had classical winged maidens surmounting or forming part of the handle. Among comparable examples is a pair illustrated in “Gli Splendori del Bronzo, Mobili e Oggetti d’Arredo tra Francia e Italia 1750-1850”, 2002, p. 140 no. 58 and also in Ottomeyer and Pröschel op. cit. p. 365, pl. 5.12.9. Works of this type proved particularly popular among English collectors as well as those from Russia, where they were sometimes copied or inspired other luxury pieces by designers such as Andreï Voronikhin (1759-1814) and the bronzier Friedrich Bergenfeldt (1768-1822).
Claude Galle was one of the foremost bronziers and fondeur-ciseleurs of the late Louis XVI and Empire periods. Born at Villepreux near Versailles he travelled to Paris to begin an apprenticeship under the fondeur, Pierre Foy. In 1784 Galle married Foy’s daughter and on his father-in-law’s death in 1788 Galle took over the workshop, which he built up into one the finest of its kind with a workforce of about 400 craftsmen. Galle promptly moved the business to Quai de la Monnaie (renamed Quai de 1’Unité) and from 1805 operated from 60 Rue Vivienne. First listed in the trade registers in 1784 he was received as a maitre-fondeur in 1786 and promptly gained the first of many commissions from the Garde-Meuble de la Couronne under Jean Hauré from 1786-88. He is known to have collaborated with Pierre-Philippe Thomire, amongst others, and was responsible for the majority of
bronzes d’ameublement supplied during the Empire to Château de Fontainebleau. Other Imperial commissions included the supply of numerous light fittings, figural clock cases, vases and other fine bronze furnishings for the palaces at Saint-Cloud, the Trianons, Tuileries, Compiègne, Rambouillet and a number of the Italian palaces including Monte Cavallo, Rome and Stupinigi near Turin. Yet despite numerous important commissions Galle was often in debt, partly on account of his lavish life style and also since many of his clients, such as Prince Joseph Napoleon, failed to pay him. After his death Galle’s business was reopened and prospered under his son, Gérard-Jean Galle (1788-1846). His work can be found among the world’s finest collections including those mentioned above as well as the Musée National de Château de Malmaison, the Musée Marmottan in Paris, the Museo de Reloges at Jerez de la Frontera, the Residenz Munich and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.


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