Christofle Jardiniere Christofle Jardiniere Christofle Jardiniere Christofle Jardiniere Christofle Jardiniere Christofle Jardiniere
Pommes de Pin, A 'Japoniste' Parcel-Gilt and Multi-Patinated Bronze Jardinière

Designed by Émile-Auguste Reiber for Christofle & Cie, 1885-1886

Decorated with branches laden with flowers and cherry blossoms, the handles and feet cast to depict pine cones, inscribed Christofle et Cie and stamped 1313926, with original liner stamped 1313926

5 in (12.7 cm) high, 17 in (43 cm) wide, 10 ½ in (26.6 cm) deep

cf. Charlotte Gere, 'European Decorative Arts at the World's Fairs: 1850-1900', The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, v.56, no.3 (Winter, 1998-99)
Arts of East and West from World's Expositions 1855-1900: Paris, Vienna and Chicago, Nagoya, Japan, 2005, p.24, no.I-34
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Charles Christofle (1804-1863) took over his father’s jewellery business in Paris in 1830 and rapidly developed it. In 1842, he purchased the French rights to an electroplating patent from the English silversmith Elkington and, by 1847, his eponymous company was the largest electroplating firm in France. Supported by Napoleon III, the company produced tablewares and other objects in the latest revival styles, including the Louis XV and Louis XVI styles.

Among their most innovative and important designers was the architect and design theoretician, Émile Reiber (1826-1893), who worked as chief designer at Christofle from 1865. It was under his direction that the company began producing a line of Japanese-inspired pieces to meet the ever-increasing European taste for ‘japonisme’.

Reiber worked his apprenticeship with Abel Blouet and took part in the architect Hausmann’s renovations which changed the aspect of Paris, including the building of the town hall of the First District and the bridges of Arcole, Invalides and Iéna. He then devoted himself to decorative arts. He worked in collaboration with the ceramist Theodore Deck and was appointed director of the silversmith workshop of Maison Christofle in 1865. He was awarded the Grand Prix of the Union Centrale des Arts Décoratifs in 1874.

Between 1875 and 1878 he produced intricate and surprising decorations influenced by China and Japan as well as India and Persia. Reiber showed himself to be one of the most avid enthusiasts of ‘japonisme’. For the coloured models he designed for Christofle, he used oriental decorations and techniques, bringing new life to tableware and table furniture. The discovery of ancient Japanese and Chinese bronzes inspired this work which, by using advanced industrial techniques, recreated the alloys and encrustations produced in Japan. Experiments into polychromy led to a whole collection of decorative arts which attracted world-wide attention at the Universal Exhibitions in Vienna in 1873 and in Paris in 1878. He triumphed in the 1878 Universal Exhibition in Paris on the stand of Maison Christofle where his productions were unanimously praised by the critics.

This jardinière was part of a series of objects including candelabra, gas lamps, and fruit bowls which was designed and produced specifically to be showcased at the 1878 Universal Exhibition in Paris. The polychromatic effect of the mixed-metal technique is itself Japanese in origin (called mokume) and the naturalistic motifs further reflect the influence of Japanese imagery.

On the present jardinière galvanoplastie, an innovative production technique developed by Christofle, is used with great success to create an intense decorative effect. The technique uses variegated patinas encrusted with layers of gold and silver that are painstakingly electroplated on the chased bronze surfaces. Discovered as early as 1836 by a Russian scientist called Jacobi, galvanoplastie was perfected by the Christofle workshops, in particular Charles Christofle’s nephew, Henri Bouilhet. At the 1855 Paris Universal Exhibition, galvanoplastie was celebrated for its well-conceived application of industry to design. The present jardinière was technically difficult to make and was expensive even then, which resulted in its rarity.

This jardinière is one of several produced by the company, and identical pieces in two sizes are today in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Musée d’Orsay.