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Mantelpiece

  • Place of origin:

    Paris (Made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1804-1809 (Made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Neppel à Paris (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Hard-paste porcelain, painted in enamels and gilded, and black marble

  • Museum number:

    499:1-1873

  • Gallery location:

    Europe 1600-1815, Room 1, case PL3 []

The central reliefs depict Napoleon I as Emperor bestowing honours on his brothers, with busts of Napoleon himself and, it is thought, Josephine. The mantelpiece was therefore most likely made between 1804 when Napoleon became Emperor and 1809 when he divorced Josephine. The imagery of the Imperial regime was characterised by strong Neo-classical styles, drawing parallels with Napoleon’s rule and the power of ancient Rome. This can be seen here in the jambs in the form of caryatids standing on eagles, lions either side under the mantle, the Imperial eagles, laurel wreaths and oak leaves of the central scene and the use of cameo style relief decoration.

The mantelpiece was made by one of the many Paris porcelain factories which were established in the late-18th to early-19th century. The Empire period (1804-15) was a revived and lucrative period for the arts industries in France, although the export trade was reduced, due to political conflict, a wealthy French bourgeoisie society emerged which expanded the domestic market for manufacturers of Paris porcelain. Luxury was once again acceptable and Napoleon and Josephine commissioned works of art and complete interiors for their Imperial palaces. Josephine is known to have patronised the porcelain factories of Honoré and Dagoty for the smaller rooms at the Château de Malmaison.

Physical description

Mantelpiece in gilded porcelain. Composed of 15 ceramic elements bolted together and a black marble hearth. The central reliefs on the lintel depict Napoleon bestowing honours on his brothers, with bust portraits of Napoleon and Josephine. The jambs are in the form of caryatids standing on eagles.

Place of Origin

Paris (Made)

Date

ca. 1804-1809 (Made)

Artist/maker

Neppel à Paris (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Hard-paste porcelain, painted in enamels and gilded, and black marble

Dimensions

Height: 106.5 cm Conversion from imperial dimensions in Register, Width: 137 cm Conversion from imperial dimensions in Register

Object history note

Bought for £50 by the South Kensington Museum from James Gowland ( d.1880) a clockmaker and chronometer maker at 52, London Wall, London.
Earliest date recorded, 1831 and died in 1880. He was made a Freeman of the Clockmakers’ Company by Redemption in 1831 and his business was at 11, Leathersellers Buildings, London Wall between 1832 and 1842 and probably after that too. He was granted a patent for a device which gave impulse to an oscillating balance via the balance spring.
Britten’s Old Clocks and Watches and their Makers, 9th ed. Methuen Spon, 1982

Descriptive line

Mantelpiece in gilded porcelain with sculptural and relief decoration. Paris porcelain, possibly Neppel à Paris, ca. 1804-1809.

Labels and date

The central reliefs depict Napoleon as Emperor bestowing honours on his brothers, with busts of Napoleon himselff and, it is thought, Josephine. The mantelpiece was therefore made between 1804 when he became Emperor and 1809 when he divorced Josephine. Relatively modest, it was made, not by Sèvres but by one of the many Paris factories, and may have been commissioned by Josephine for one of the smaller rooms at the Château de Malmaison, for whose furnishings she is known to have patronised the porcelain factories of Honoré and Dagoty.
(V&A label text 1987) [1987]

Materials

Porcelain; Black marble

Techniques

Painted; Gilded

Categories

Ceramics; Furniture

Collection

Ceramics Collection

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