10104 An important pair of Paris porcelain two-handled slender vases, possibly Dihl et Guérard, the matt and burnished gilt ground finely decorated with panels of maidens and winged figures supporting baskets on the reverse, the bodies painted with scenes from Benardine’s Paul et Virginie with a band of biscuit flowers and pearls above, on decorated socle bases with black marble plinths. Ex Collection of George Byng, Wrotham Park from Mme Escudier, Paris 1820
French, Paris attributed to Dihl et Guérard
Height: 22.5 ins (52.5 cms) £25,000
This important pair of vases were bought in Paris in 1820 by the notable Regency collector, George Byng MP (1764-1857). Byng inherited Wrotham Park, the great Palladian mansion by Isaac Ware in Hertfordshire, in 1789. He extended the wings to accommodate his growing collection of old master painting largely bought in London auctions and French furniture, some bought on four buying trips to Paris.
Taking advantage of Post Napoleonic sales and financial and political uncertainties of the 1820s and 1830s, Byng created a well known collection both at Wrotham and at his London residence in St James Square. His extensively annotated lists of purchases in the family archive allow us to identify this pair of vases as being purchased directly by Byng from the dealer Mme Escudier of 21 Quai Voltaire in 1820 for Ff 100. From other dealers or marchands merciers in Paris he bought important coffers, cabinets and torcheres by Andre-Charles Boulle, epitomising the height of taste in Francophile London. Despite the losses due to family division over the 19th century, the treasures were largely kept together. These vases were sold from the estate in 2005 providing an almost unbroken 190 year provenance from their manufacture in 1815.
The story of Paul and Virginie from the novel by Benardine, was set on the then French island of Mauritius. It tells the story of life on an island without social classes, where equality and sharing of possessions led to happiness and where Christianity was a benevolent force. An echo of the philosophies of the French Enlightenment.
The two young friends grew up in idyllic circumstances, nurtured by the natural rhythm of the tropical island but with approaching adulthood and Virginie’s return to France in order to improve her social opportunities, their lives took a sharp and contrasting downturn. The novel was produced as an opera of the same name in Paris in 1794 and would certainly have been a well known and popular story in the first decades of the 19th century.