A flowerpot to pay tribute to Michelangelo
The famous Titans basin designed by Carrier-Belleuse, which owes its extraordinary pedestal to Rodin's genius, will be a highlight of the next "Garden Party" sale at the Château d'Artigny (Loire).
Four muscular Titans hold up this iridescent blue and green enamelled earthenware flowerpot decorated with lizards playing in oak branches. The renowned Second Empire sculptor Albert-Ernest Carrier-Belleuse and his favourite ornamentalist, the young Auguste Rodin, designed the impressive piece, attesting to their fruitful collaboration from 1864 onwards. To build the basin’s base, in 1877 Carrier-Belleuse commissioned Rodin, who gave it a completely unexpected dramatic dimension. The Choisy-le-Roi manufactory eventually made only a few copies. To date, five are listed, with variations in the ornamentation of the upper part. Ours, dated 1890, reappears today because its owners attended the previous, and 30th, Rouillac auction house’s "Garden Party" sale on 10 June 2018, where a similar flowerpot, dated 1899, sold for €155,000. It differed in its ivy decoration and lighter colours. Two other examples, from 1877-1878, show almost identical reliefs; they can be seen at the Musée du Petit-Palais in Paris or at the Institute of Arts in Detroit. Dating from 1901, the most recent model is in Madrid’s Lazaro Galdiano Museum and features more stylised plant motifs around its edges, flirting with Art Nouveau.
On the base, the muscular, Herculean Titans, as if tangled in their drapery, refer to the Ignudi, the naked young men created by Michelangelo. Twenty of them populate the vaults of the Sistine Chapel. Rodin admired them during his "grand tour" to Italy in 1876. They also recall the famous Slaves, four of whom were then exhibited in the Boboli gardens of the Palazzo Pitti in Florence. They deeply impressed Rodin, who, back in Paris, remembered them for The Age of Bronze, his first bronze sculpture, in 1877.