DescriptionAN IMPORTANT MONUMENTAL JEAN-VALENTIN MOREL VICTORIAN EXHIBITION SILVERED BRONZE SURTOUT DE TABLE WITH EIGHT MATCHING CANDELABRA
Jean-Valentin Morel, London, England, 1851
25 x 42 x 25 inches (63.5 x 106.7 x 63.5 cm)
Son of the Parisian lapidary Valentin Morel and Marie-Jeanne Bouriau (from the Mauzie family of Parisian goldsmiths), Jean-Valentin Morel was born on April 5, 1794 on the Ile de la Cite in Paris. Following in the family footsteps, Jean-Valentin was apprenticed to the Parisian gold box maker Adrien Vachette, completing his apprenticeship around 1818. Under Vachette Jean-Valentin was trained as both a goldsmith and a jeweler-a duality of skills that would be evident throughout his entire career.
Setting up as an independent master in 1827, Jean-Valentin registered his first goldsmiths mark, declaring his specialization as a maker of jewelry and ornamental boxes, and in the following year established a workshop in the village of Château-Thierry, situated nearly 60 miles north-east of Paris.
By 1833 Jean-Valentin had returned to Paris where he served as the head of the workshops of Jean-Baptiste Fossin (the firm that would eventually become Chaumet), which specialized in sophisticated jewelry for a client list that included the family of Louis-Philippe and the aristocracy of the July Monarchy.
In 1840 Morel moved on, entering into a partnership with the architect Henri Duponchel under the name Morel et Cie. Located at 39 rue Neuve Saint Augustin in Paris, the new partnership allowed Morel to return to the combination of traditional goldsmith work alongside traditional jewelry work. During this period Morel et Cie received international acclaim, receiving major commissions from Pope Gregory XVI, the King of Sardinia, as well as William III of Holland. However, the business relationship between Morel and Duponchel was less than ideal, resulting in dissolution in 1846 with Morel losing his right to practice as a goldsmith in the city of Paris.
The fall of Louis-Philippe in 1848 and the exile of the French court to London witnessed the move of Morel from Paris to London, with the financial support of Fossin. In London, Morel established a new workshop at 7 New Burlington Street, supplying works for the exiled French aristocracy and Royal Family, as well as establishing a new English client base, including Queen Victoria.
It was in London, at the 1851 The Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations, housed in Joseph Paxton's monumental Crystal Palace in Hyde Park that Morel received widespread critical acclaim as well as the coveted Council Medal -the highest award possible. Amongst the small group of items displayed by Morel was "an epergne, designed a la mode Louis Quatorze ... well modeled, chased, &c, it presents a clean and crisp appearance, highly pleasing. Four scrolled stems rise from a massive salver to support a basket above, which canopies a clever group of bacchanalian boys, seated on the ornamental projections of these stems are boys supporting branches for lights. At each end of the salver is a vase for flowers. The whole is arranged not to impede the view of the opposite guests."
Critical success, however, was not sufficient to sustain the large workshop in London. By 1852 financial difficulties once again plagued Morel, and the workshop was closed. Not able to return to Paris, Morel established a workshop in the village of Sèvres, again with the financial support of Fossin. Focusing more and more on lapidary works with gold and enamel mounts, Morel received critical acclaim at the 1854 and 1855 international exhibitions, and counted leading style-makers as his patrons, including Henry Thomas Hope and the Duc de Luynes.
The 1851 Exhibition Surtout de Table
Constructed of silvered bronze, the history of this monumental work is unclear. Having been specifically created for the 1851 Crystal Palace Exhibition, the piece is recorded as having been installed in Morel's showroom at 7 New Burlington Street in London, where it appears to have remained unsold following the exhibition. It is known that upon the closure of Morel's London premises in 1852 that certain molds, models and equipment were purchased by the firm of R & S Garrard & Co., though the centerpiece has not been traced through the Garrard ledgers.
The first recorded reappearance of the Surtout since 1852 is the former collection of A. Emmett Barnes III of Macon, Georgia, sold at public auction in 1994. At the Barnes sale the surtout had been united with four sets of gilt and silvered bronze seven-light candelabra which at that time were attributed to the firm of R & S. Garrard & Co.
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