DEMIDOFF SERVICE A FRENCH-EMPIRE SILVER-GILT DINNER-SERVICE
On partly-fluted square base, with egg and dart cast knop, the campana-shaped body applied with a procession of classical bacchic figures surrounding Bacchus being drawn by panthers in his chariot, with leaf-capped scroll and dolphin mask handles, applied below the rim with a band of trailing vines, the slightly domed cover with bud and foliage finial, with lion cast spout and mother-of-pearl mother gilt metal tap, the plain liner with drop ring handles, the cover applied with two coats-of-arms accolé below a coronet, marked under base, on base, near rim, inside cover and under liner, the base and inside cover further stamped 'J. Bbte. Cde. Odiot', liner further stamped 'Odiot', the coats-of-arms each marked underneath
The Demidoff Service
The Demidoff Service has been researched and discussed extensively by Anthony Phillips and Jeanne Sloane in their exhibtion catalogue, Antiquity Revisted, English and French Silver-Gilt from the Collection of Audrey Love, London, 1997. The quality of the service as the present lots attest, make it one of the most magnificent French services produced in the early 19th century. Count Nikolai Demidoff (1773-1828), for whom it was made, was born near St Petersburg in 1773, son of Nikita Akinfiyevich Demidoff (1724-1786) and his third wife Alexandra Safonova. His father died when he was only fifteen at which time he inherited the family's industrial empire, consisting of some eight metallurgical factories as well as mines in the Urals and Siberia. They were said to have produced a huge annual income and emplyed some 12,000 serfs. The young Demidoff began to spend so recklessly that the government had to send in the receivers.
In September 1795 at St Petersburg he married Baroness Elisabeta Alexandrovna Stroganoff (1779-1818). The couple had two sons, Pavel Nikolaievich (1798-1840) and Anatoly (1812-1869). Nikolai entered the diplomatic service and the young couple moved to Paris, becoming ardent supporters of Napoleon I of France and setting up home in the hôtel de Brancas-Lauragais, at the corner of rue Taitbout and Boulevard des Italiens. However, rising Franco-Russian tensions forced his recall and they moved back to Russia via Italy, arriving in 1812. He fought with distinction in the Russo-Turkish War (1806-1812) and at the start of the French invasion of Russia he financed the creation of an infantry regiment, which he then commanded against Napoleon's forces, fighting at Oravais and Borodino.
Demidoff returned to Paris in 1815 where his house soon became a centre for leading academic and literary figures of his day. In 1819 he was made Russian Ambassador to the court of Tuscany. Having divorced his wife, who moved back to France, he lived his last years between France and Italy among scholars, financing the creation of schools, hospitals and other charitable institutions in Tuscany. He bought 42 acres of marshland north of Florence from the Catholic Church and there built the Villa San Donato from 1827 to 1831 where he set up richly-decorated private rooms to house his enormous art collection, which was divided between his residences in San Donato, St Petersburg, Paris and Moscow. By decree of Leopold II of Tuscany, on 23 February 1827 Demidoff was made Count of San Donato for the services he had rendered to Tuscany.
It is not surprising that Demidoff turned to the Maison Odiot to order a silver-gilt service. The firm, which can trace its origins back to 1690, came to its greatest glory under the leadership of Jean-Baptiste-Claude Odiot, the grandson of the founder, Jean-Baptiste-Gaspard Odiot. Born in 1763 and becoming a master in 1785, Odiot succeeded his father in the business, steadily building the firm's reputation, coming to particular notice following the Exposition de l'industrie held in Paris in 1802. Following the bankruptcy, in 1809, of the celebrated neoclassical silversmith Henry Auguste, who at the time was the silversmith to Emperor Napoleon, Odiot was able to purchase many of his models and designs.
Soon Odiot was receiving orders from the French court, including a service made for Napoleon's mother, styled 'Madame Mère', much of which was exhibited London, Christie's, The Glory of the Goldsmith, 1989, nos. 17 and 18, as well as from across Europe and beyond. The Russian Imperial court's love affair with French silver, most famously realised in the service made for Catherine the Great from the Parisian silversmith Jacques Roettiers and his son Jacques-Nicolas Roettiers in 1770 and subsequently presented to her lover Count Gregory Orloff (see Christie's, New York, 19 April 2002, lot 74), continued with commissions from the Russian court to Odiot. Among these important commissions were a massive service for Countess Branicki, the niece of Gregory Potemkin, (see Christie's, London, 12 June 2007, lots 120-122).
The account books which remain in the archives of Odiot record that the service, of which the present lot includes many of the principle pieces, was ordered by 'M. de Demidoff', with the most important part of the service being delivered on 5 October 1817. It has been said of the Demidoff service that the individual objects 'are not so much dishes and cruet frames as they are fully realised small sculptures. The technical brilliance of these figures was due ... to the extraordinarily coordinated system that integrated the skills of the fondeurs-ciselleurs with those of the silversmiths' (C. le Corbeiller, 'An Introduction to Napoleonic Silver', The Arts Under Napoleon, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1978). The records of Maison Odiot indicate that a considerable number of artists were employed on the service, including designers Cavelier, Prud'hon, Moreau and Garneray, and modellers Chaudet, Dumont and Roquier (J.-M. Pinçon and O. Gaube du Gers, Odiot l'orfévre, Paris, 1990).
Some elements of the design of the Demidoff service, particularly the major tureens, can be seen as a celebration of the defeat of Napoleon - a victory in which Demidoff had played his part (The Glory of the Goldsmith, Christie's, London, 1989, p.36). For example, the kneeling Nike figures beneath the tureens and the figures of Fame, Bacchus and Ceres supporting the bowls of the pot-à-oille can be seen in this light. It is somewhat ironic that the most "Napoleonic" of services should include elements celebrating his defeat, and that just two years afterward it was exhibited at the Louvre. The catalogue for this exhibition, l'Exposition des produits de l'industrie française au Louvre stated that 'It has been a pleasure to see a fine silver-gilt service ordered by M. Demidoff, for which the estimated price is not less than 130,000 francs, Sixty pieces were counted, all decorated with bas-reliefs in exquisite taste, of subjects representing festivities. The main vases are supported by perfectly designed and worked figures, representing Bacchus, Ceres, Pomone ect. It is doubtful whether the art of the silversmith as ever produced anything more magnificent' (Ibid, p. 36 where the French text is translated).
The Later History of the Service
On the death of Count Nikolai Demidoff in 1828 the service presumably passed to his second son Anatole Demidoff. The younger Demidoff was born near St Petersburg, as his father had been, but grew up in Paris. His western upbringing led him to move away from his Russian ancestry and by the time of his father's death in 1828 he had more or less settled entirely in Europe, splitting his time between Paris, Rome and Venice. This attitude alienated him from Tsar Nicholas I of Russia, who always had an antipathy towards him. Following in his father's footsteps Anatole was interested in scholarship and as a result of his support was created Prince of San Donato in 1837. He also considerably expanded the Demidoff collection assembled by his father at the Villa San Donato near Florence, being particularly interested in Romantic art for example buying, at the Paris Salon of 1834 Paul Delaroche's The Execution of Lady Jane Grey (now in the National Gallery, London). His collection was dospersed throught public and private sales in Paris starting in 1863 and it seems likely that the Demidoff service was one of the earliest pieces to leave the collection, having been with the London based Gentleman dealer Charles Frederick Hancock by 1863.
Charles Frederick Hancock was baptised in Birmingham in November 1807, going on to become a partner in the firm of Hunt and Roskell, one of the top silversmiths of the first half of the 19th century. He set up on his own by 1849 and soon was advertising himself as 'Jeweller and Silversmith to the principle sovereigns of Europe'. In this capacity it seems probably that he became acquainted with Prince Demidoff and likely purchased the Demidoff service directly from him. Hancock would seem to have wasted no time finding a buyer for the service as the applied arms are marked with London hallmarks for 1863. The arms had for many years remained something of a mystery, though research by French heraldry expert Philippe Palasi showed the arms to be those de la Chapelle, as borne by Alfred de la Chapelle (1830-1914) Count of Morton and Beaulieu in Périgord.
Alfred de la Chapelle was a colourful explorer, adventurer, soldier, journalist and politician. As a young man he joined the California gold rush, but made his mining fortune at Coscopera, Mexico, in the 1850s. In 1859 he returned to France and met the Empress of Russia among others. Obviously a restless individual, by 1860 de la Chapelle had emigrated to Australia where by 1867 he was back in the mining industry. In 1863 he is recorded as acknowledging an illegitimate son, Octave Xavier Alfred, whose mother Kate Royal was a twenty-year old from Manchester. In 1889 the birth of a second child, Antoinette-Aline-Andrea de Morton de la Chapelle, was recorded at the French consulate in Dublin. Alfred de la Chapelle died in Essex in 1914, when it appears that the silver-gilt service was acquired by an Englishman, presumably the "Gentleman of Title" cited in the New York auction catalogue in 1928.
It is extraordinary that the service survived intact until the sale in New York in 1928 and even more so that so many of the principle pieces have been reunited nearly a century after being separated.
THE PROPERTY OF A GENTLEMAN
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EUROPEAN FURNITURE & WORKS OF ART
24 in. (61 cm.) high 546 oz. (16,984 gr.) 18½ in. (47 cm.) high 937 oz. (29,131 gr.) 15½ in. (39 cm.)high 584 oz. (18,170 gr.) 8¼ in. (21 cm.) high 213 oz. (6,609 gr.) 20 in. (51 cm.) high gross weight 461 oz. (14,336 gr.) 17½ in. (44.5 cm.) long 119 oz. (3,713 gr.) 5 in. (13 cm.) diam. 50 oz. (1,543 gr.) 11¾ in. (29.7 cm.) diam. 147 oz. (4,570 gr.) 11¾ in. (30 cm.) high 55 oz. (1,717 gr.) 5¾ in. (14.6 cm.) wide 66 oz. (2,049 gr.) 24 in. (61 cm.) high 546 oz. (16,984 gr.) with Charles Frederick Hancock, London, by 1863. 18½ in. (47 cm.) high 937 oz. (29,131 gr.) with Charles Frederick Hancock, London, by 1863. 15½ in. (39 cm.) high 584 oz. (18,170 gr.) with Charles Frederick Hancock, London, by 1863. 8¼ in. (21 cm.) high 213 oz. (6,609 gr.) with Charles Frederick Hancock, London, by 1863. 20 in. (51 cm.) high gross weight 461 oz. (14,336 gr.) with Charles Frederick Hancock, London, by 1863. 17½ in. (44.5 cm.) long 119 oz. (3,713 gr.) with Charles Frederick Hancock, London, by 1863. 5 in. (13 cm.) diam. 50 oz. (1,543 gr.) 11¾ in. (29.7 cm.) diam. 147 oz. (4,570 gr.) with Charles Frederick Hancock, London, by 1863. 11¾ in. (30 cm.) high 55 oz. (1,717 gr.) with Charles Frederick Hancock, London, by 1863. 5¾ in. (14.6 cm.) long 66 oz. (2,049 gr.) total gross weight 3,177 oz. (98,820 gr.) (20)