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Superb pair of Empire Medici vases with Bacchanalia scene

Pair of Empire Medici vases with Bacchanalia scene

Rare pair of large gilt and patinated bronze Empire Medici vases / campana urns. The body of the vases consist of a bas-relief with a Bacchanalia scene showing children’s bacchants with a goat. Further they each have a gadrooned rim and to the sides they have handles in the shape of putti. They stand on a  gadrooned foot and collar with decorations of leaves and the whole rests on a square pedestal enhanced with laurel wreaths and fleurons with vine leaves and clusters, underlined by a frieze of heart stripes.

It is probably to François Duquesnoy (1597-1643), a contemporary of Nicolas Poussin, that we must turn to find the origin of the composition of the bas-relief on these vases. In the 1630s François Duquesnoy sculpted a children’s Bacchanal with a goat, a model which was taken up and reinterpreted throughout the 17th and 18th centuries. Examples of bas-reliefs of this Bacchanal of children with a goat by Dusquenoy can be seen in the Galleria Doria Pamphilj in Rome and the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam (inv.nr. BK-2014-28, see last photo).

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

The bas-relief “Bacchanalia of Putti” by François Duquesnoy (c. 1597-1643)

Duquesnoy arrived from Brussels in Rome in 1618 and was feted by the critics of the day who saw him as the champion of classical ideals. He became close friends with Nicolas Poussin, who influenced his early work as can be seen in this relief executed for Villa Pamphilj. The theme of this relief may be derived from Duquesnoy’s admiration of Titian’s depiction of the theme.

This representation of children’s bacchants with an unwilling goat is inspired by Roman sarcophagus reliefs and by texts from Philostratos, and Virgil’s Georgica. An antique sarcophagus with a related decoration was in the collection of Giustiniani, for whom Duquesnoy worked in Rome. Since ancient times, the goat was known as a destroyer of grape vines and thus endangered the vintage. That is why goats were sacrificed to Bacchus. That fact is here interpreted in a playful way by Duquesnoy.

Details of the Empire Medici vases with Bacchanalia scene

France, circa 1810.
Dimensions: 40 cm high, diameter 17 cm. Size of the base: 12 x 12 cm.
Weight: 8,6 kg (for the pair).

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