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Currently shown
Marc-Augustin Lebrun

Ewer and basin

Artist

Marc-Augustin Lebrun
Active in Paris after 1808

Title

Ewer and basin

Date

Between 1821 and 1838

Materials

Silver

Dimensions

Ewer: 37.2 x 18 x 13.9 cm; basin: 10.9 x 36.7 x 24 cm

Weight

Weight: 1,080.7 g (ewer), 1,095.4 g (basin)

Credits

Gift of the Honourable Serge Joyal, P.C., O.C., in honour of Nathalie Bondil's being named Chevalier of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres de la République française, inv. 2016.455.1-2

Collection

Decorative Arts and Design

Starting in the eighteenth century, the ewer and basin were commonplace elements of one’s ablutions. This set shows the spare forms characteristic of the Empire style, whose severity is softened by rich, myth-inspired ornamentation. The ewer’s ovoid belly is girded by a frieze of palmettes and seahorses framing medallions featuring Neptune, god of the sea, and his wife, Amphitrite, and ends with a Rhodian sun head. These motifs recur on the basin’s marlis, or the edge, underscored by a heartshaped frieze. The handle, depicting a siren and attached to the spout with butterfly wings, remains the ewer’s most impressive element. The butterfly motif, associated in the Neoclassical vocabulary with Psyche, at once evokes the fragility of love, the birth of new life and the lightness of the transports of the soul.

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