François ANGUIER (1604 – 1669), Pair of antique garden cast iron vases, North Parterre, Versailles Gardens

Important pair of cast iron garden vases.
The upper part with lattice pattern of to bottom braces, the central part decorated with a frieze of laurels, the handles in form of man heads decor ending with openwork scrolls. Based on a fluted pedestal.
Late 19th century.
Dimensions: High 2' 7'' ½ x Width 2' 5'' ½ x Depth 1' 11'' ⅝ cm.

Our monthly-column is dedicated to this pair of vases. It was built in the 19th century after an antrique model for the North Parterre of Versailles Palace. Their classic form refers to the heyday of French gardens.

"One will turns to the upper level to see the northern parterre, statues, vases, crowns, and the pyramid can be seen from Neptune, and afterwards we go back by the same door. "
- Louis XIV, Way to Show the gardens of Versailles, 25 °, six versions between 1689 and 1705.

In the above extract, Louis XIV speaks about the splendor of the North parterre and invites the visitor to contemplate the vases - among other things. The sculptor François Anguier (1604 - 1669), author of the funerary monument of the heart of Henry I of Orleans - in the Louvre Museum collection -, was in charge of the design of those vases, including this special one, with scrolls.

Louis XIV accompanies the walker in the ideal tour of these flower beds. It is also a tribute to the work of Le Nôtre, designer of these spaces. He created these gardens, gave them elements or surprises and harmony.

The gardens are an essential part of a Royal residence. The king has the right to hunt, it is an aristocratic privilege and Versailles was at first a hunting lodge. But Versailles Gardens are specials. Louis XIV wanted the most majestic Palace in Europe, to enhance the prestige of the absolute monarchy.

At that time, the Italian Villas had the most sumptuous Gardens, inspired by the art of grotesque and antiquity. Louis XIV was passionate about this form of art and wanted to invent a French Baroque style, reflecting the wealth of its Kingdom, where vegetation and water would be controlled in order to surpass the Italian palaces.
All details were carefully choosen. For the severals works of art and decoration in these hudge spaces, the King and Colbert wanted all the greatest artists of their time.

These scrolled vases were casted in bronze to adorn the North entrance staircase. This curves belong to the baroque style, but its rigorous construction and proportions belong to the Grand Siècle cannons ("Great Century" in French is the name given to the 17th century). They were made in bronze with brown patina and were used as caches-pots (flower-pot holder). The flowers and plants were constantly changed and it was easier to move small pots instead of important bronze vases. Those pieces of art were beautifully hiding the practical, yet unsightly plant pots. Thanks to this technic, the gardens of versailles were frequently renewed.

In the 19th century, a cast iron production was inspired by these classical design. Foundries, such as the Val d'Osne, will edit decorative elements inspired by antique styles. This period was called the eclecticism of Napoleon III.
The wealthy wanted to decorate their private mansions with historical styles. These classical vases conveyed the memories of the splendor of the "Jardins à la Française"(French gardens).

Illustration from the Val d'Osne Catalog : Val d'Osne Art Foundries Society, Album # 2 - Art Cast iron, 1900, Vases and cups : Pl. 400, Ill.. 170.

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