The European Decorative Arts Company offers extremely rare objects of gilt-bronze by the Parisian bronze founder, Ferdinand Barbedienne. Also represented are Champlevé enamel and bronze works by Nicholas-Germain Charpentier, Constant Sévin, and Désiré Attarge.
Our recent catalogue, titled "Objects for the Collector," in which Barbedienne objects from our collection were featured for the first time in our publication and includes extensive essays and references on the history of the firm and of the objects offered.
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Neo-Gréc Kylix (Tazza) and Pair of Candelabra by Barbedienne and Levillain, Circa 1880-90
Ferdinand Barbedienne (1810-1892)
Each piece inscribed F.BARBEDIENNE and the kylix signed in the central medallion F.LEVILLAIN • Central medallion further cast with the title MENCLAS MOPSUS
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Ferdinand Levillain, a sculptor and medalist, was another skilled craftsman who worked at the Barbedienne firm. As a craftsman, Levillain specialized in a characteristic form of bronze work whereby the decoration was cast with Greek-inspired elements in relief and highlighted in gilding. Levillian brought the work of Cahieux (such as the designs from the 1855 Exposition) to a further stage of development in the Neo-Gréc style by applying glyptic techniques, which he would have learned in his training as a medallist. The characteristic work by him grew out of a revived interest in the art of the medal, in France in the 19th century, partly spurred on by the many commissions given to artists by the Ministry of Fine Arts and the Directors of the Mint. As Mr. Eric Turner explains “The revival of glyptic work renewed a well established French tradition of decorative artists designing medals as part of a larger commission [and] many medallists were undertaking ornamental work and Levillain was one of the most accomplished in this field.”1 Roger Mark wrote in 1899 that Levillain has “.....helped to promote [glyptic art] to its full expansion and we are indebted to him for his dishes, vases, and basins.”
The firm’s Neo-Gréc bronzes were often based on known prototypes and their catalogues offered many models and figures in various sizes with the prices cited. The present tazza, for example, is listed in their 1886 Bronzes D’Art catalogue, entitled MENALCHAS, COUPES GRECQUES, par Levillain, priced at 195 francs. The Candelabra are not listed specifically, but may have been placed generally under the chapter LUMINAIRE in the Grand assortiment de Girandoles-appliques, Candelabres, Flambeaux, Bougeoirs, etc.
A similar kylix or tazza to this example signed by Levillain is in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, inscribed in Greek ‘Dionysis’ and exhibited at the 1889 Paris Exposition
1 Simon Jervis, et. al. Art and Design in Europe and America 1800-1900, Victoria and Albert Museum, 1987, p. 152 (entry by Eric Turner).