Important pair of Directory period cassolettes by Jean-Baptiste Héricourt

A Pair of Directory period cassolettes attributed to Jean-Baptiste Héricourt (1756-1849)

Rare pair of magnificent Directory period late 18th century cassolettes of impressive quality, executed in mercury gilded bronze and cherry red marble, attributed to Jean-Baptiste Héricourt. This model was designed by Héricourt around 1793 and one of its first recipients was Tsar Paul I of Russia. They are traditionally attributed to Pierre-Philippe Thomire, but thanks to the research of Jean-Dominique Augarde, they were recently reassigned to the bronzier Jean-Baptiste Héricourt. A contemporary of Pierre-Philippe Thomire, Jean-Baptiste Héricourt belonged to the select group of top bronziers of the time, like Thomire, Galle and Ravrio.

The cassolettes or urns rest on a fluted pedestal on a square cherry red marble base, decorated with masks of Mercury to three sides. They have decorations of foliage and a large frieze depicting women draped in antique style and putti, dancing with garlands. The cassolettes are covered with removable lids with foliage and openwork decoration and topped with a pine cone.

A version of these cassolettes is in the Pilaster Room at the Pavlovsk Palace in St. Petersburg. Another pair, now in the Hermitage Museum, was supplied to Tsar Paul I of Russia. He was one of the first recipients and acquired them through the merchant Jean Mazeau for the St. Michael’s Palace in St. Petersburg in 1793.

These cassolettes are a perfect example of the changing style towards the end of the 18th century. The art of gilded bronze reached its pinnacle at the end of the 18th century, when the imagination of the forms, the casting, the chasing and the gilding had simultaneously reached a level of absolute perfection. The period that then extends from the proclamation of the Directory onward experienced an unprecedented acceleration of stylistic evolution. This was punctuated by the production of works of astonishing elegance and luxury.

This important pair of cassolettes is in an excellent state of preservation with their original mercury gilding.

Details of this pair of Directory period cassolettes by Héricourt

Paris, Directory period 1795-1799.
Dimensions: 46 cm high, 15 cm diameter. Size of the base: 12 x 12 cm.
Weight: 10.8 kg (for the pair).

Jean-Baptiste Héricourt (1756-1849)

A contemporary of Pierre-Philippe Thomire, Jean-Baptiste Héricourt, son of a Charenton miller, excelled in the art of bronze. Installed as a “sculptor engraver in bronze” in 1791, he contributed to the ornamentation of the most prestigious residences throughout Europe. It was from the Directory that he imposed himself as a brilliant producer of furniture bronzes. Active until 1829, he lived at the corner of rue Neuve Orleans and the Faubourg Saint-Martin.

The reputation of Héricourt  speaks for itself, he executed objects of the highest importance and some of his models have become classics. It is therefore with good reason that the authorities of the department of the Seine had selected Jean-Baptiste Héricourt alongside Thomire & Cie, Duport Père et Fils, Claude Galle and André-Antoine Ravrio to represent the art of gilded bronze at the 4th Exhibition of the Products of French Industry in 1806, where he obtained an honorable mention. He was at the time at the head of a prosperous workshop.

It is through colleagues including Denière & Matelin, Claude Galle, Lucien-François Feuchere, Pierre-Victor Ledure, Antoine-André Ravrio and further clock makers, upholsterers and merchants, that his production was distributed and that it contributed to the ornamentation of palaces and large residences both in France and in Europe. As an example we can mention the former Parisian hotel of Princess Pauline, sister of Napoleon I.


  • Jean Dominique Augarde, “Une nouvelle vision du bronze et des bronziers sous le Directoire et l’Empire”, L’Estampille l’Objet d’Art, n°398, January 2005, p. 62-85.
  • Jean Dominique Augarde, “Jean-Baptiste Héricourt. Un bronzier à l’épreuve du temps”, L’Estampille l’Objet d’Art, n°584, December 2021, p. 64-77.
  • Sotheby’s New York, June 2014, where a version of these vases appeared in auction.
  • A. Kuchumov, “Pavlovsk Palace and Park”, Aurora Art Publishers, Leningrad (St. Petersburg) 1975.
  • Emmanuel Ducamp, “Pavlovsk: The Palace and the Park, the Collections”, Alain de Gourcuff, Paris 1993.

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