A pair of enamel painted cast iron jardiniers

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A pair of enamel painted cast iron jardiniers

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A pair of unusual French Second Empire enamel painted cast iron jardiniers finely decorated with stylized white and yellow flowers and acanthus leaves on cobalt blue background in the style of Italian Renaissance majolica. The handles resemble lion heads. The pots bear a signature ‘E. Paris et Cie 47 Rue de Paradis. French. Late 19th century.

Measurements: height 51 cm and width 52 cm

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These jardiniers were made in c 1880 by the renowned firm of Charles-Emile Paris specializing in the manufacture of crystal glass, enamelling and mosaics. The crystal making and enamelling firm was founded in 1827 or1829 at rue de Bercy by his father, Jean-Alexandre Paris, who was the jeweller goldsmith of the Palais Royal. In 1867 Charles-Émile Paris left the Parisian site due to the new law forbidding the emission of industrial smoke in the capital, and founded a new factory at Le Bourget (Seine) at the site of a Louis XV hunting lodge. The new plant was destroyed during the war of 1870 and ruined Charles-Émile Paris; he had to sell the land in order to rebuild the factory on the leased site. The business was successful and the number of employees grew steadily and subsequently a retail shop was opened at rue de Paradis in the 10th arrondissement of Paris in 1876.

It was a dynamic and innovative firm, which ensured its success. Among the most notable and prestigious of its achievements was the supply of enamels (1847) for the tomb of Napoleon at the Invalides, decorative mosaic enamels at the Casino de Monte-Carlo (1879), and winning a number of highly prestigious awards at the Paris International Exhibitions in 1867, 1878 and1889 in various categories. Charles-Emile Paris also specialized in making elegant enamelled cast iron pots for displaying plants in conservatories.

This unique pair are in excellent condition. The handles, shaped like lion heads, and the lions' feet below, are gilded. The enamel decoration is, as far as we know the only pair with majolica decoration, in the style of Italian majolica, with stylized botanical motifs. Cobalt blue, antimony yellow and copper green has been used, colours typical of the Italian tin-glazed ware during the Renaissance.

The leaves in the decoration are stylized, scrolling acanthus leaves, extensively used in the the classical world.  Acanthus, a common plant in the Mediterranean, represents longevity and immortality. The white flowers in the centre of the leaves are similar to sweetbriars, but with six rather then five petals.

Modern history for majolica collecting began in the 1830s, but the historical context of the turn towards Renaissance as a source of inspiration could have also been the effect of International Exhibitions in which the firm participated. While after the 1862 Exhibition in London, the fashion for Orientalism appeared in the applied arts, the 1867 International Exhibition in Paris enabled the French to rediscover the sources of the Renaissance, and in an industrial context opulence quickly recovered even after the defeat of 1870.

Enamel is a method of fusing either powdered coloured glass, or colourless glass powder mixed with pigments such as a metallic oxide, to a substrate by firing, usually between 750 and 850 °C, a temperature high enough to melt the applied powder, but low enough that the base itself is not melted. The powder melts, flows, and then hardens to a smooth, durable vitreous coating on metal, or on glass or ceramics.