Pair of vases in porphyry and gilded bronze
On a high base with a step, decorated with gadroons and festoons of gilded bronze, stands the foot with a ring of beads around the bottom edge. The cup has a squat bell-shaped body, bulging outwards at the bottom and ending at the top in a strongly everted lip. The lid in the shape of a flattened dome has a pierced bronze ring with rosette motifs in a braided ribbon. The knob in the shape of a plant tuft rests on curved leaves. There is another golden rosette in the inner cavity.
Dimensions: h. 43 cm, diam. 28.5 cm
Both the variety of porphyry and the form of the vases suggest a Northern European origin. The classicizing inspiration of the shape, slightly corrected, is embellished by the luxurious mount that gives them the opulence of 18th-century objets montés. It is possible that the bronze mount was executed in France, chased with great finesse and arranged with a care worthy of the material it finishes: the exquisite rosette placed in the bottom of the inner cavity demonstrates the attention lavished on the creation of a highly luxurious object. The variety of porphyry used, by contrast, probably comes from northern Europe.
From the second half of the 18th century onwards, the Swedish quarries created a market for new pieces aimed at European Neoclassical decorations. These were largely varieties of porphyry and granite with different characteristics from those of the classical tradition . The colours were different; some, as in our case, very similar to those used by the ancients, others completely new. Even in the forms given from then on to the artefacts we see a certain evocation of classical prototypes and at the same time an attempt to create new, or at least stylized, forms. There are some Swedish repertoires of drawings with designs for vases, of about 1790, with urns, craters and cups of various shapes . By contrast, the series Porfhyres de Suède of 1805, written in French, is a genuine printed catalogue with outlines, annotations and indications of sizes and prices, evidently destined for the export market. Here we see objects of all shapes presented both in outline, unmounted, and accompanied by an indication of the mount available. One of these outlines is very similar to that of our two vessels . We also see it in a granite cup without a lid .
As concerns the mount we can currently suggest a French origin. The confident manner in which the two marbles are reinvented and interpreted as 18th-century incense burners presents all the technical and formal hallmarks of the works executed by the great bronze founders active in Paris in the mid-19th century.