This monumental piece of French craftsmanship is featured in the Fine Silver sale at New Bond Street on 21st November (estimate £40,000-£60,000).
François-Désiré Froment-Meurice (1802-1855) was a French silversmith who achieved considerable fame and prestige during his lifetime. His list of patrons included Queen Victoria and Napoleon III and his objects can be seen in the V&A and the Musée des Arts Décoratifs.
One of the plaques on the bowl of the centrepiece illustrates a ‘Bicycle’ locomotive pulling a train across the bridge at Argenteuil. This was a famous scene of inspiration for the impressionist painter, Claude Monet. Subtly embedded in the design of the centrepiece, it is a celebration of the new Arts of Industry and Commerce.
At over half a metre in height and weighing almost twenty kilograms this important piece of industrial commemoration is a unique piece of silversmithing. Although the purpose of this work is unknown, the three relief plaques depicting scenes of rail engineering suggest it was probably created to commemorate the development of the rail link between Argenteuil and Ermont.
Michael Moorcroft, Head of the Silver department said: “The Froment-Meurice centrepiece is one of the largest pieces of silver ever to be auctioned by Bonhams. It is a delightful reinterpretation of classical ideals modernised for the French Industrial age.”
Also featured in the sale is an important French silver-gilt soup tureen, by Jean-Baptiste Claude Odiot (estimate £40,000-£45,000) and a Victorian silver centrepiece, based on Pliny’s Doves, by Hunt & Roskell (estimate £15,000-£20,000).