The Angers saleroom Deloys (22% buyer’s premium), part of the Ivoire group, offered a selection of around 150 items that had belonged to a skilled producer of silver and decorative objects during the Empire period who became the imperial goldsmith to Napoleon.
They had passed down by descent from the family of Martin-Guillaume Biennais (1764-1843).
After the emperor’s second marriage, Biennais had produced a series of small bronze busts of members of the imperial family known as the Napoléonides.
The highlights on January 19 were three rediscovered busts each measuring around 4-5in (11-12cm), all set on cylindrical plinths. Two of them were coloured wax versions that would have served as models for the bronzes, the third a gilt bronze example.
The bronze bust depicted Princess Caroline Murat, Napoleon’s sister, measured 8½in (21.5cm) in total height and sold for €40,000 (£33,615).
Caroline was also the subject of a second bust, 10in (25.5cm) in total height, this one in cream painted pink wax signed on the back in the wax by Joseph Anton Couriguer (1750-1830). The sculptor probably assisted Biennais with the commission and produced this model on Biennais’ order. This realised €9500 (£7985).
The third bust, in wax, by Biennais and measuring 10½in (26.5cm) overall in height, depicts Joachim Murat one of Napoleon’s marshals. He married Caroline and became king of Naples and is depicted here wearing his Grand Cordon of the Legion d’Honneur. This wax is thought to be the model for the cast that is in the Musée Napoléonien in Antibes. It was pre-empted by the Musée de Fontainebleau at €27,000 (£22,690).
Among the other items from the same collection in the Ivoire Angers sale were a number of examples of Biennais’ silverware.
These included a 9½in (24.5cm) high baluster shaped covered jug with his signature and marks for 1794-97 and 1809-19. It was decorated with laurel framed portraits à l’antique to the body and a man’s head bearded with acanthus leaves under the spout.
The jug easily outstripped its €800-1000 guide to take €3700 (£3110).
£1 = €1.19