An impressive and important French silver table centerpiece Circa 1865.


The circular bowl with chased relief border of alternating acanthus leaves and anthemions, the underside with three rectangular relief plaques each depicting: the facade of the re-built Gare du Nord, A 12OT 'Bicycle' locomotive and train possibly on the Argenteuil bridge, the third with a similar train entering the tunnel of Batignolles, each within a scroll-edged frame and linked with fruiting garlands on a lappeted ground, supported by three scroll brackets on a central column with vase knop with relief lion masks and drapery, on a tripartite base supporting seated classical figures of Mercury (Commerce), Industry and Architecture, all on three acanthus scroll feet separated by relief trophies of Architecture, Steam Power and Industry, 

height 22 1/2 inches (57cm), diameter 17 1/4 inches (44cm), weight 598oz (18.6kg).

The firm of Froment-Meurice was established by François-Désiré Froment-Meurice (1802-1855), he was succeeded by his son Emile (1837-1913) who continued to increase the prestige of the firm, being commissioned to make the "Paris Tiara," a papal tiara given to Pope Leo XIII by the people of Paris in 1888 to commemorate his Golden Jubilee as a priest.

At the 1867 Exposition Universelle, Froment-Meurice showed two garnitures that had been produced in collaboration with the sculptor Emile-François Carlier (1849-1927): the extraordinary ivory and blue enamel Garniture de Cheminée (exhibited Musée de la Vie Romantique 2003, Trésors d'argent, les Froment-Meurice, orfèvres romantiques parisiens, cat no 66) and the Surtout aux Fritillaires ordered by Emperor Napoleon III (now in the Musée Arts Decoratifs, inv. 14338 [A-à-C). It is interesting to note similarities between the latter and this centerpiece that might suggest that Carlier was again involved in the design: the modeling of the classical figures seated on the centrepiece and the use of 'modernised' set of trophies below linked by swags.

Froment-Meurice undertook a number of civic and commercial trophies and most are engraved with a dedication or prize. This piece has no presentation inscription, however the three pictorial plaques give us clues as to the possible purpose of such an impressive piece of silver. 

Firstly, the facade of the Gare du Nord; the station was inaugurated in 1846 but less than 10 years later it was unable to cope with the rise in traffic and it had to be re-built. The facade was removed and can now be seen as the facade of Lille station. The new station was designed by the renowned architect Jacques Hittorf, famous for his design of the Place de la Concorde. It was re-built between 1861 and 1866 by Bridge & Roadway Engineers on behalf of the Chemins de Fer du Nord Company, this later facade is depicted.

Secondly, the locomotive depicted exiting one of a pair of tunnels in the second plaque has been identified as a 12OT (ITT) or 'Bicycle,' more commonly used by the Compagnie de l'Ouest (which ran services from the Gare Saint Lazare) but they were also made for the Chemins de Fer du Nord (which ran services from Gare du Nord). The tunnels are most likely to be those at Batignolles, these were on the western line further help us to date the piece to before 1892 when a third tunnel was built. 

The third plaque depicts the 'Bicycle' pulling a train across the bridge at Argenteuil, famously painted by Claude Monet. 

In the early 1860s a rail company was set up to link the towns of Argenteuil and Ermont, the line would serve both Gare Saint Lazare and Gare du Nord and solves the mystery of the three plaques. It is possible that it was made as a presentation piece to commemorate the inauguration of the line. This idea is supported by the the fact that Princess Mathilde, cousin of Napoleon III, opened the line on 13 August 1863. After the fall of the Empire, she continued to use the line from Sannois to reach her home in Paris near Gare St Lazare until her death in 1904.

Price : On application