Rare pair of oblong shaped shuttles in ribboned alabaster.
The square base has four translucent alabaster plates set in a bronze mount.
It supports an oval pedestal.
The body of the shuttle is delicately sculpted with a gadrooned base topped with a small ogee ending in an outer lip in the shape of a corbin's beak on which the dome-shaped lid rests.
The latter is topped with an oblong grip.
The edges of the pedestal, the lip of the body and the grip are surrounded by friezes of bronze beads.
The sides are decorated with two large handles simulating acanthus scrolls which spring from the base to end on each side of the borders.
High quality carving and mercury gilding.
Beautiful state of conservation, a lid and a restored socket.
Alabaster shuttles, Rome probably mid 17th century.
Bronze mounts, Rome around 1770.
Width: 31cm; Height: 30cm; Depth: 14 cm
Our opinion :
The terms “nave” or “shuttle” are often used to refer to our vessels but are part of maritime vocabulary, since they both mean “ship”.
The image of the overturned boat hull is also used to name all oblong architecture with a domed roof and in particular the large prayer rooms of our cathedrals.
For Christianity, this term is a fairly strong allegory which identifies the church with a rescue boat, like Noah's ark or the boat on which the loved ones of Christ left Palestine.
This form was used since the Roman era but it was during the reign of Louis XIV that it met with great success following orders from Cardinal de Mazarin.
Mazarin, who was a great collector of Italian antiques, sent his agent, Abbot Elpidio Benedetti (1610-1690) to Italy to acquire the most beautiful vases in hard stone (porphyry, granite, alabaster, etc.) for the French royal collections .
The latter also had drawings made and ordered tailor-made vases from Roman artisans, including rare shuttle models which then adorned the salons of the Palace of Versailles.
This lapidary art was exclusively a court art, in particular because of a rare and very expensive raw material but also because of the implementation of these stones which required very significant know-how.
As the Romans had done in the past, the most beautiful rocks were extracted or reused to be sculpted and polished.
Alabaster was one of the most used materials because of its tenderness but also its veining which enhanced the sculpture.
These pieces were collected assiduously throughout the 18th century, with a peak during the neoclassical period, when antiquity was brought up to date.
Many of these hard stone sculptures were then given bronze mounts made by great craftsmen who specialized in this art of sublimating the antique.
The best known among them was Luigi Valadier (Rome 1725-1785) who combined the talents of sculptor, goldsmith and jeweler.
The frame of our vases is similar to its production because it combines several of its specialties, bronze with a very finely carved frame but also stone work with fine translucent alabaster plates imitating Agathe.
These “pietra dura” vases are very rare on the market; they are pieces of cabinets of curiosities but also of great decoration, being able to enhance a chest of drawers or a console as was customary in the 18th century.