Anonymous Still Life of Vase, Gilt Bronze Cup, Book and Flowers
Medium Albumen print
Photo Date 1870c Print Date 1870c
Dimensions 14-1/8 x 11-3/8 in. (359 x 289 mm)
Photo Country France
Photographer Country France
Contact Alex Novak and Marthe Smith
About This Image
Large, early and very rare still life, possibly made for promotional purposes, perhaps for Barbedienne or Christofle, two French silver manufacturers.
It came from a group of similar still lifes of unknown origin. Beautifully textured objects make this an exceptionally sensual photograph, from the nap of the velvet to the surface-relief of the containers. A few small areas of spotting that are barely visible on this important image. The cup, or skyphos' (scyphus), relates to the Boscoreale treasure, now at the Louvre. Such cups were made by the galvanoplasty process by Barbedienne and Christofle, as well as others. The interest in Pompei was great in this period and copies as well as pieces inspired by such finds were common in the 19th century. The decoration of drinking vessels with a wreath of leaves and flowers was a common pratice (ivy with its berry and leaves was the preferred). Ivy was the decoration of the cup promised by Theocritus to Tirsus and that of the vase of Alcimedon cited by Virgil. It was believed that ivy was an excellent remedy for headaches and a magic talisman for drinking excesses. Because of this, Plutarcus wrote that Bacchus was considered a medicine expert, having taught the use of ivy wreaths to forestall the wine's effects. My thanks to Parisian silver dealer David Allan for much of this information.
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