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    Description

    A Gilt Bronze-Mounted Patinated Copper Two-Handled Vase by Alexis Decaix, Designed by Thomas Hope for his Duchess Street Mansion, London, circa 1802-1803
    25-3/4 x 13-1/4 x 12 inches (65.4 x 33.7 x 30.5 cm)

    Property from the Estate of David D. Denham, Tulsa, Oklahoma


    LITERATURE:
    Thomas Hope, Household Furniture..., London, 1807, pls. XXXIV-XXXVII and p. 39 and XLI, no. 8 and p. 41.

    COMPARATIVE LITERATURE:
    Martin Chapman, "Thomas Hope's Vase and Alexis Decaix," The V&A Album, 4 (1985), pp. 217-228.
    Martin Chapman, "Thomas Hope's Metalwork for Duchess Street: 'Character, Pleasing Outline, and Appropriate Meaning,'" in David Watkin and Philip Hewat-Jaboor (eds.), Thomas Hope: Regency Designer, Yale University Press, 2008, pp. 90-97 and pp. 416-417, cat. no. 89.

    We wish to thank scholars Philip Hewat-Jaboor and William Iselin for providing the cataloguing and the following essay:

    Physical inspection and the historical background set out below confirm that this vase is the pair to the one at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London (Fig. 1).

    This vase's rim and cover are both notched four times, and its underside bears four scratches. These notches/scratches correspond with the three notches that are reported on the V&A's vase. Furthermore, the specific placement of the mask mounts at the front and the rear of both vases indicates that they were intended to be shown as a pair. This will need to be confirmed by an inspection of the style of notching on the V&A vase (which could not be done at the time of this essay due to the temporary closure of the museum).

    Hope illustrates a vase of identical form with different "Apollo" mounts in plate 34 of Household Furniture(Figs. 2-4). Given that this pair is numbered 3 and 4, it seems very likely that the Apollo vase was also a pair and had the notched numbers 1 and 2. Decaix seems likely to have produced all four bodies at the same time, adding different mounts to the rims and bodies depending on the pair and in accordance with his patron's designs. This would appear to be supported by Francis Douce's observation in his notes on Hope's house that there were "several bronze vases" in the Dining Room (cited in Chapman 1985, op. cit., p. 220, fn. 9).

    The appearance of this second example confirms that Thomas Hope clearly took great care to ensure the vases would be displayed in perfect harmony, which fits in with what we know about his incredibly meticulous nature and approach to collecting.

    Historical Background

    The scion of a wealthy banking family, Thomas Hope made his London home on Duchess Street into an outstanding example of Neoclassical design. In 1807, Hope published an illustrated account of the house and its furnishings entitled Household Furniture and Interior Decoration..., which had a considerable influence on other architects and designers working in the Greek Revival style. In his choices of materials and use of decorative bronzes, НОРЕ was following French rather than English precedent. He not only used gilt bronze in the interiors of his London house, but also added А measure of dark patinated bronze - a finish he admired for its association with the more stoical character of Greek and Roman antiquity and which is paralleled in the finishing of some of his furniture. НОРЕ evidently enjoyed the interplay between this dark patinated bronze and rich gilding because it is found throughout extant pieces of metalwork and furniture from Duchess Street.

    As the major 2008 exhibition showed, Hope personally oversaw the refurbishment of his home to an extent unusual for the time. In the introductory remarks to Household Furniture, he explains:

    "I was thus obliged to depend in a great measure on my own inadequate abilities for the accomplishment of my purpose; and to employ that feeble talent for drawing... in the... laborious task of composing and of designing every different article of furniture, which I wanted the artisan and the mechanic to execute." (Hope, op. cit., p. 8)

    In his essay in the Hope exhibition catalogue, Martin Chapman considered this model to be the "most impressive of Hope's surviving metalwork designs that were based on his tenets of looking to Greek antiquity for models, employing А strong outline, and using appropriate ornament" (Chapman 2008, p. 92). The vase's form is identical to the one in the Victoria and Albert Museum (Fig. 1) with the obvious exception of the lid which appears to be later. Hope himself gave unusual prominence to this model, devoting five illustrations to two different versions of the design within the plates of Household Furniture (Hope, op. cit., plates XXXIV-XXXVII and p. 39 and XLI, no. 8 and p. 41; Figs. 2-6). All the full-page vase designs show a different lid to either the present vase or the one in the V&A.

    The maker was a French bronzier named Alexis Decaix who came to London as a refugee from the French Revolution. Decaix's training and practice in his native France seem to have been extensive. He is recorded as receiving his maîtrise (mastership) in Paris as А fondeur on 30 December 1778 and nearly a decade later is mentioned as paying tax in the tenth class of bronzier in 1787. In London, he is first recorded in a bill to the Prince of Wales dated 4 November 1791, which is largely made up of wages for two years and seven months, suggesting that he had left France before the storming of the Bastille in July 1789.

    Most of Decaix's work for the prince seems to have been for cleaning and repairing gilt bronze light fittings in 1792-1794 and again in 1801. From the spring of 1794 until 1805, he is documented at 15 Rupert Street, London, and appears repeatedly in the trade directories of London from 1799 as a "bronze and ormolu manufacturer." Working for the well-known silversmith Garrard, he produced a range of gilt bronzes between 1799 and 1804 for the prince and other aristocratic clients. On 9 October 1800, Decaix made for Garrard a "pair of Egyptian slaves for a light on Bronze Pedestal with hieroglyphic characters," probably the same as those shown in plates XIII (no. 1) and LIX in Household Furniture. Because НОРЕ is not documented in their ledgers as one of Garrard's customers, it must be surmised that he commissioned these candlesticks directly from Decaix.

    Decaix had connections with the architect Henry Holland from the 1790s, working under him and supplying bronze work to his designs at royal and aristocratic properties such as Carlton House and Woburn Abbey's new Sculpture Gallery for the 5th Duke of Bedford in 1804. The bronzier may have been brought to НОРЕ's attention by Charles Heathcote Tatham, who worked for Holland from the 1790s and who was the executant architect for НОРЕ in the remodeling of Duchess Street around 1800. Along with НОРЕ, Decaix subscribed to Tatham's Etchings published in 1799, an important source for the archaeological style of the time.

    By 1805, Decaix's thriving business was insured to the impressive value of £2,000. With his talents obviously much in demand, he fashioned other pieces in Egyptian taste which circumstantial evidence links to manufacture for the royally-appointed goldsmiths Rundell, Bridge & Rundell. Amongst these are wine coolers and candelabra supported by sphinxes. Four such candelabra were sold to the Prince Regent in 1811 as part of the Grand Service (Royal Collection RCIN 26108), athough earlier examples exist such as the set of four commissioned circa 1802-1806 for the Egyptian Dining Room at Goodwood House, Sussex, seat of the dukes of Richmond. Two of these were sold Sotheby's London, 6 July 2016, lot 41 where they were acquired by the Metropolitan Museum of Art (2016.618.1-4).

    As elaborated in the Sotheby's lot description, a silent partnership had existed between Decaix and Rundell, Bridge and Rundell, whose dissolution was gazetted in January 1809 but must have been in operation throughout most of the first decade of the 19th century based on the dating of the Goodwood candelabra. Later that year, Decaix opened А "shew room" at 43 Old Bond Street. His success was short-lived as he died in 1811.

    Famously, Hope singled out Decaix and a carver named Bogaert as the only London-based craftsmen he could trust to make his designs according to his exacting standards:

    "Throughout this vast metropolis, teeming as it does with artificers and tradesmen of every description, I have, after the most laborious search, only been able to find two men, to whose industry and talent I could in some measure confide the execution of the more complicate [sic] and more enriched portion of my designs; namely Decaix and Bogaert: the first a bronzist, and a native of France; the other a carver, and born in the Low Countries." (Hope, op. cit., p. 10)

    The contrasting use of matt and burnished gilding is a feature of this vase. The technique highlights the detailed decoration and was used by the celebrated Parisian bronziers Pierre Gouthière and Pierre-Philippe Thomire. It points to a maker who was trained in Paris and further confirms the Decaix attribution.

    The unusual method employed in making the vase's body also supports this. Rather than being cast in bronze, it is raised out of hammered copper. Raising was А method found more commonly in the silver trade for making hollowware, and it is possible that this technique grew out of Decaix's association with Garrard. As Chapman points out, Decaix's business was expanding at this date and may not yet have had full bronze casting capability for an object of this size (Chapman 2008, p. 416).

    Hope commissioned the model for his London mansion at Duchess Street, where it was most likely displayed in the Dining Room. It is based on a classical volute "krater," an ancient Greek vase with two handles that was used for mixing wine and water. When Hope visited Naples in 1802, by his own account he sketched a "Greek vase of white marble in the museum at Portici" (Hope, op. cit., p. 39, 'PLATE XXXIV'). As we now know, the vase Hope saw is a Roman copy of a Greek form, examples of which can be found today in the Museo Archeologico Nazionale in Naples (Figs. 7-8).





    Condition Report*: Overall presents well, with strong patination, and minor push to crest of one handle, minor verdigris spotting to underside of body, plinth, and at seams, and surmounted with later finial and fitting.
    *Heritage Auctions strives to provide as much information as possible but encourages in-person inspection by bidders. Statements regarding the condition of objects are only for general guidance and should not be relied upon as complete statements of fact, and do not constitute a representation, warranty or assumption of liability by Heritage. Some condition issues may not be noted in the condition report but are apparent in the provided photos which are considered part of the condition report. Please note that we do not de-frame lots estimated at $1,000 or less and may not be able to provide additional details for lots valued under $500. Heritage does not guarantee the condition of frames and shall not be liable for any damage/scratches to frames, glass/acrylic coverings, original boxes, display accessories, or art that has slipped in frames. All lots are sold "AS IS" under the Terms & Conditions of Auction.

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    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    June, 2021
    22nd Tuesday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 7
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