The sixth “Vase of the Titans”

Wednesday, June 1st 2022

by Rodin and Carrier Belleuse

The sixth “Vase of the Titans” by Rodin
The sixth “Vase of the Titans” by Rodin
The sixth “Vase of the Titans” by Rodin
One of only six known versions of the "Vase of the Titans" by Auguste Rodin and Albert-Ernest Carrier-Belleuse depicting four Titans supporting an urn decorated with reptiles playing in oak branches.

C. 1890. Glazed polychrome terracotta.
Total Height (urn + pedestal): 28".

Signed by Carrier Belleuse, the Vase of the Titans has long remained a rarity in the history of decorative art. Until 2018, only three complete vases were known, all of which are held in museum collections: those of Museo Lazaro Galdiano in Madrid (nr. 08158), Petit Palais in Paris (nr. ODUT 1924) and the Detroit Institute of Arts (nr. 2003.32), while a fourth, unglazed version is kept in Musée Rodin in Paris (inv. nr. S.02682.RF.). The four atlantes supporting the urn, whose terracotta models can be found in The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (inv. Nr. 58.20.1 and 2) were indeed modeled by Auguste Rodin. In 1877, the sculptor met with Albert Carrier-Belleuse, Director of the Sèvres porcelain works, whose studio he had previously left. Rodin, who had yet to become the undisputed master of French sculpture, created this unique pedestal as a tribute to Michelangelo’s work which he had discovered during a trip to Italy. Starting in 1884, the Vase of the Titans was sold, not in Sèvres but in Choisy-le-Roi, under the sole name of Carrier-Belleuse, whose son Louis-Robert became artistic director of the family company between 1890 and 1895. And whereas the 1895 manufacture catalog paid homage to the lizards decorating the urn rather than to the titans supporting it, today it is indeed to Rodin’s genius that recognition is given!

New developments occurred in early 2018 when I found a fourth complete vase decorated with frogs in Vendée. It was auctioned off at Château d'Artigny during our 30th Garden Party Auction Sale (June 10, 2018 - lot #41). This well-documented vase was acquired by The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston to complement the small terracotta models already held in its collections (inv. nr. 2018.285.A,.B.). A Brussels TV viewer who had watched a France 2 television report about this extraordinary discovery then contacted and entrusted us with a fifth vase decorated with lizards. We sold it on the heels of the frog-decorated one at Château d'Artigny (June 16, 2019 - lot #80). In 2022, during an estate inventory in Caen, Normandy, a sixth complete vase of the Titans was discovered. This feat is all the more noteworthy since the production of such vases is very limited compared to that of Rodin's bronzes: while more than one hundred copies of his famous “Kiss” were cast in various sizes, only a handful of complete Vases of the Titans are known to date.

What could be said about this latest discovery that hasn’t already been discussed in the very thorough articles published on the occasion of our 2018 and 2019 Garden Parties or in the recent announcement of the auction sale of a lone pedestal (Sotheby's, Paris, November 10, 2021 - lot #141)? First, that its urn is covered in the same beautiful chocolate glaze as the one kept in the collections of the Musée des beaux-arts de la Ville de Paris at the Petit Palais. Furthermore that, having been cherished by the same family for several generations, it is in the same amazing condition as the one that we previously auctioned off and is sold with a Japanese-style stand dating back to the late 19th century. Finally, that the collector who will buy it will join a very exclusive list of owners counting some of the most prestigious museums in the world and will thus possess a work of art serving as a link between two geniuses, Michelangelo and Rodin, as well as a bridge between two of the major periods in art history that were the Italian Renaissance and the beginning of Modern Art in Paris. In a word: a trophy!

Aymeric Rouillac
Subscribe to our newsletter:
Follow us: