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Charles Christofle (French, 1805–1863)

Orfèvrerie Christofle (French, b. 1831–present)


Medium aluminum with painted and gilded decoration Measurements H: 12 3/4 x W: 16 x D: 12 3/8 in. (32.38 x 40.6 x 31.43 cm) Credit Women's Committee Acquisition Fund Accession Number 2007.12 Location Gallery 4, Scaife Galleries


This centerpiece is one of the earliest decorative objects created in aluminum. Sculpted by the renowned Parisian firm of Christofle, silversmiths to Napoleon III, the centerpiece demonstrates France's national interest in advancing and experimenting with aluminum, as well as the designer's interest in painted decoration on what was then considered a rare and precious metal comparable in status to silver. The original owner of this centerpiece was Isaac Pereire (1806–1880), a prominent Parisian financier, who supported the development of the aluminum industry in France. The owner's monogram appears in gold decoration on oval tablets on either side of the object. During its first phase of production in the 1850s, aluminum was sometimes used in imitation and substitution for other materials. The surface of this object was innovatively painted in green, black, and gold tones to replicate patinated bronze. The playful putti on the centerpiece are collectively a nationalistic symbol of prosperity and success in the arts (the ewer), industry (the gear, anvil, and axe), agriculture (cornucopia and plow), and commerce (bound bales) during the Second Empire in France (1852–1870). —From gallery label, by Jason Busch, 2007