International Exposition of Paris 1867

Agriculture, Industry and Fine Arts

April 1, 1867 - November 3, 1867

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French silverware

French silverware at the Exhibition Expo Paris 1867

The products of French silverware are generally distinguished by the lightness of the form, the grace of the subjects and the finish of the execution. There are undoubtedly pieces of silverware in the exhibitions of foreign nations which combine these three qualities, but perhaps not to the same degree. It is also fair to observe that foreign manufacturers often employ French artists. The number of French workmen who work in London for goldsmiths and jewellers is considerable.

When our manufacturers borrow, either from England or from the United States, some manufacturing process, some improvement in machinery, the fact is immediately known, it is indisputable, proven.

On the other hand, whether a foreign manufacturer has recourse to the pencil of a French draughtsman, to the taste of an ornamentalist, to the skill of a chiseller, no one knows it or is supposed to know it.

Far be it from us to blame either the manufacturer who goes to seek what he lacks for the good execution of his products, or the artist or the worker who goes to carry their work to where it is better paid. But it is no less true that, from the point of view of the difference in the aptitudes of nations, these emigrations can give rise to erroneous assessments.

Thus, it seems to us indisputable that in all industrial products which touch upon art, France has a real superiority. This is true for furniture, for fabrics, as well as for goldsmiths and jewellers.

Having said this, let us review the magnificent specimens of their industry which our Parisian goldsmiths have exhibited.

Here is first the showcase of M. Odiot, where we notice seven beautiful pieces of a table service in the Louis XIV style. The centre basket is decorated with a frieze of ornaments chiselled with great care. The two decorative pieces support vases with antique bas-reliefs. Two allegorical figures occupy the base; one personifies bread and wine, the other fruit and flowers.

But what are these massive pieces, these cups, these candelabras, which instead of representing gods and goddesses, and bearing the imprint of princely armorial bearings, have for ornament attributes of the iron industry and for characters workmen in workshop costume, with their tools of various forms?

It is a service commissioned by one of our main metallurgists, Mr Petin, and perfectly executed in the Odiot house. However, we would have liked a little more realism in the figures of the workers, but the whole is of a striking character, and the execution is excellent. It is regrettable that we do not know the names of the draughtsmen and chisellers who worked under the direction of Mr. Odiot on this remarkable work.

The Froment Meurice company is worthy of its former reputation through the objects it exhibits.

We shall mention a cup and candelabras belonging to the Emperor, a delightful lunch service belonging to the Empress, a ewer to the Duke of Montpensier, a very beautiful tableware to Mr. Isaac Péreire, and finally the cup offered by the city of Vienna to Mr. François Ponsard.

Three figures personifying the three main works of the poet, Lucretia, Agnes de Merania and Charlotte Corday, raise laurel wreaths which support a cup whose enamelled interior is decorated with the arms of the city of Vienne. The happy composition of this object of art is due to M. Froment-Meurice, the sculpture is by M. Dumége.

The house of Veyrat is one of the oldest goldsmiths in Paris. For fifty years it has held an honourable place in all exhibitions and has won several awards. Mr. Veyrat also makes solid silverware and that light silverware which is suitable for modest fortunes. He exhibits very successful examples of this double industry.

We shall mention a beautiful table service in the Louis XV style, allegorical pieces, cups, candelabras, baskets, and tea sets of excellent taste.

Let us also mention a statue of Ganymede taken by the eagle from which Jupiter has borrowed the shape. It is the work of Mr. Moulin, sculptor. A medal was awarded to him at the Beaux-Arts for this statue which is exhibited without any retouching of the chasing. Two charming reductions edited by Mr. Veyrat are rightly noticed.

Let us stop in front of the works of Messrs Bannière, brothers. They are artists rather than goldsmiths. For the Duke of Luynes, they have made a shield in embossed steel, very remarkable for its high reliefs obtained without tearing. The subject is borrowed from Milton. This other embossed iron shield is a page from Ariosto, translated by the sculptor with exquisite art.

But there are not only shields in the showcase of Messrs Fannière. Here are some beautiful pieces of tableware: a silver embossed tea belonging to Mr. Adolphe Fould, a Turkish-style coffee service in vermeil, and various other objects of impeccable taste and perfect execution.

We have now arrived at this marvellous and varied exhibition of the Christofle house, of which our designers and engravers have reproduced the principal pieces.

In the notice that M. Christofle has devoted to his exhibition, we have noticed with pleasure the care he takes to name each of the principal artists who have lent him their support. To share his success in this way is not to diminish it, but on the contrary to enhance it by justifying it.

Indeed, the head of such an important company, which, as we shall see, embraces so many different branches of production, could not be at the same time the designer, the sculptor, the modeller, the chiseller and the ornamentalist of the works which leave his workshops. His merit lies precisely in surrounding himself with talented collaborators, in guiding and supporting their efforts, in making them converge towards the same goal. I) also lies in the application of the most advanced processes, in the judicious choice of tools that are constantly up to date with the most recent discoveries, in the use of ingenious machines, and finally in the fair and benevolent management of a large staff of workers.

In all these respects, the place which M. Christofle holds at the Exhibition is without doubt one of the most honourable and most worthy of encouragement and praise.

Succeeding his father, M. Charles Christofle, and walking in the same footsteps, M. Paul Christofle, with the active and intelligent cooperation of M. Bouilhet, has raised the goldsmith's trade to the level of an industry of the first order. He has continued, with notable improvements, the manufacture of all those objects of daily use, which have replaced iron and tin in all the modest households for which silverware was an unaffordable luxury.

To silvering and gilding by electro-magnetic processes, M. Christofle has added guillochéing by the same process, and galvanic damascening. He was thus able to give the most varied forms to the objects he made for all the usual needs, and to provide the public with elegant services, stoves, dishes, tureens, and torches of a happy style and a charming execution.

However, M. Christofle has not neglected the quite artistic side of his profession, and without ceasing to work for what the English call "the million", he has thought of satisfying also those they call "the happy few". "In good French, after having satisfied the needs of the masses, he wanted to provide for the luxuries of the powerful and the rich.

Here, for example, is a tableware set belonging to the Emperor. It is the complement of this beautiful table service of one hundred place settings, in gilded silver, which won all the votes at the London Exhibition in 1862.

The middle piece represents the four parts of the world supported on the prows of ships and linked together by oak garlands supported by imperial eagles.

The side pieces are formed by round jardinières, in the centre of which rises a group supporting sprays of lights. The allegorical figures of Agriculture and Industry are to be seen.

The end boxes are decorated with groups of children symbolising the four elements.

It would be difficult to imagine, for such a work, a more brilliant richness, a purer taste, a more perfect execution. This is no longer goldsmithing, it is art in the broadest sense of the word.

Such are also the tableware and the dessert service executed for the festivities of the Hôtel de Ville in Paris. It is a great composition, which was modelled and executed according to the drawings and under the direction of Mr. Victor Baltard, member of the Institute and inspector of fine arts.

Our readers will be grateful to us for putting before their eyes the summary description of this beautiful work, all the better because at the time of writing, these beautiful pieces have disappeared from the Exhibition in order to go and decorate the sumptuous banquets that the Prefect of the Seine has offered to the sovereigns and foreign princes who have come to Paris to attend the great spectacle of the industrial competition of nations.

The middle piece consists of a large polished silver tray, the frame of which is raised by a rich moulding with a frieze shaded with gold of different colours; four large candelabras set in this moulding connect the main parts.

The centre is occupied by the symbolic ship of arms of the city of Paris. On the deck of the ship, the statue of the City is raised on a bulwark supported by four caryatids representing the Sciences, Arts, Industry and Commerce, emblems of its glory and power.

At the prow is an eagle leading the ship towards its future destiny; the Genius of Progress lights its way, Prudence is at the stern and holds the rudder.

Around the ship, groups of Tritons and Dolphins are playing in the waters.

The two ends of the composition are occupied by groups of sea horses, which are being tamed by Genies and Tritons.

The side pieces are designed along the same lines.

In the centre of each tray, a pedestal formed by the intersection of two richly ornamented elliptical arches supports two groups, Summer and Winter, Spring and Autumn. Children's figures adorn the bases of the pedestal. Two groups of Tritons and Naiads occupy the ends of the tray; symmetrically placed Dolphins give these pieces the harmony of the whole.

Finally, two groups for the table ends symbolise the Seine and the Marne, the two rivers whose waters bathe Paris.

Twenty candelabras in the same style as those on the trays, four large Sèvres porcelain Vases, mounted in gilt bronze and placed in the centre of vast gilt bronze jardinières, and one hundred and twenty accessories intended to contain flowers, fruit and dessert, complete the ensemble of the main piece.

So far we have spoken of two quite distinct types of manufacture in which the Christofle company is equally successful. On the one hand, there is the popular silverware, the silverware of the bourgeoisie and the craftsmen, the silverware of the hotels, which is also used on the liners of the Transatlantic Company, and on the other hand, there is the artistic silverware where the composition, the drawing, the chasing play an important role.

Now we come to a third type. That of solid silverware and objets d'art.

This cup, which was given in 1866 by the Jockey Club to the winner of the two Derbys, French and English, was well worthy of the magnificent horse Gladiator, which won the prize.

We should also mention the Navigation, a commemorative piece, offered by the French Government to Mr. Larkins, member of the Board of Trade, the Harvesting machine, a farm-school bonus, given by the Minister of Agriculture, Trade and Public Works, and various other pieces, such as a jewellery box, a sugar bowl, and a coffee service, in the Louis XVI style, made of silver and chased with repoussé by first-rate artists.

We would be remiss not to mention a beautiful pedestal table with tea service and a Louis XVI toilet of exquisite taste.

Before entering into a new series of productions, we believe we owe a mention to the collaborators that M. Christofle himself has brought to public attention, as we said earlier.

Let us therefore mention, for the imperial department, Messrs Maillet, Aimé Millet, Mathurin Moreau and Capy as sculptors and modellers, and Mr Auguste Madroux as ornamentalist.

For the service of the town hall, Messrs Diebult, Gumery, Thomas with the previous ones. Let us add the names of Mr. Carrier-Belleuze, Messrs Klagman, Doussamy and Revillon, as moulders, and Messrs Honoré, Douy, Horms and Michaux as chisellers. Finally, the head of the composition and drawing workshop at Christofle is Mr. E. Reiher, a distinguished architect.

We will end our review by examining some works of massive and round-boss electroplating.

The former are everywhere and in all forms, combined with products of different industries. They are sometimes combined with furniture, sometimes with marble work. They can be found in the form of bas-reliefs, plinths, cornices and frames in many exhibitors' display cabinets.

Electroplating in the round has a more independent existence. It produces busts, figures and groups. Thus, in the fine arts section, we see a group of wrestlers by M. Ottin and the Faun with a kid by M. Fesquet.

In the Park, we noticed the reproduction of the door of the sacristy of Saint Mark's in Venice, a work that is equally valuable from the point of view of art and archaeological studies. We shall also mention Crolone's Milon, which happily reproduces Puget's beautiful marble, and the Thinker, which is an exact facsimile of Michelangelo's statue.

We would have greatly wished to take our readers to the workshops of the Christofle company, in the rue de Bondy, and to have them witness the interesting and varied work of its many workers, obscure but devoted collaborators, whose zeal and activity are never in default. We would have taken pleasure in explaining the ingenious arrangements of the machines, some obeying steam, others electricity.

We would have gladly followed a piece of raw metal through all its transformations, from the moment it entered the factory in the form of a plate or ingot, to the moment it emerged melted, twisted, chiselled, silvered, gilded, polished, ready to satisfy the taste of the buyer. In this way we would have reviewed all the branches of industry of the Christofle company and we would surely have interested the public.

But time and space would not permit such a work, and we have had to limit ourselves to giving only a general picture, leaving aside these curious details.

We have said enough, moreover, to make one appreciate the exhibition of Mr. Paul Christofle and the importance of his house.

It is clear that if goldsmithing proper has the largest share, it can also be linked to many other divisions of science, art and industry. It is, in fact, related as an art to drawing, sculpture, moulding and chiselling, as a science to chemistry, physics and mechanics, and as an industry to that of the goldsmith, the founder and the bronze manufacturer. It is, to say the least, a sui generis exhibition which certainly deserves, in this memorable Exhibition of 1867, a special place that no one can dispute.

©L'Exposition Universelle de 1867 Illustrée