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François-Désiré Froment-Meurice (1802-55)

Tazza 1855

RCIN 41123

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In the course of her many visits to the Great Exhibition, Queen Victoria made at least four calls at the stand of Froment-Meurice, one of the most successful goldsmiths and jewellers in France, who was once described by Victor Hugo as the Cellini of his age. One of Froment-Meurice's strengths was stylistic versatility. He is perhaps best known for Renaissance and Gothic revival pieces, but his naturalistic works also won high praise. He won a Council Medal at the Great Exhibition and became well known in England.

The rock-crystal tazza seems to have been given to the Queen during her state visit to France in 1855. It is clearly marked with Froment-Meurice's stamp, as well as the maker's mark of Jules Wièse, one of the firm's most successful designers. The quality of chasing on this piece, particularly the naturalistic bulrushes and lily leaves, is of the highest standard. Wièse is normally considered only as a chaser, but Froment-Meurice himself acknowledged him as a collaborator in design, and he was employed as the manager of the design workshop. Queen Victoria acquired another Froment-Meurice tazza (RCIN 41130), this one lidded, in 1864 as a gift from the duchesse d'Aumale.

Froment-Meurice was hugely successful at exploiting the international expositions of the 1840s and 50s to gain a large international clientele and a widely fashionable reputation. Only days after his death in February 1855 a contemporary journalist, Jules Janin, noted that, among others, the Tsar of Russia, the Pope and both Queen Victoria and Prince Albert owned works by Froment-Meurice.

Struck with maker's mark of Jules Wièse and stamped: FROMENT MEURICE PARIS

Text adapted from Victoria & Albert: Art & Love, London, 2010