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Style Louis XV / Ref.10688

François LINKE (1855-1946) and Léon MESSAGÉ (1842-1901) (Att. to) - « The Source », Inkwell of the 1900 Universal Exhibition of Paris

Dimensions:
Width: 14'' ⅛  36cm
Height: 9'' ⅞  25cm
Depth: 9'' ⅞  25cm

Origin:
Model designed for the 1900 Universal Exhibition of Paris, displayed again at the 1905 Universal Exhibition of Liège

Status:
In excellent condition.

This gilt bronze inkwell design, adorned with a finely sculpted ornamentation group, La Source, was realized by François Linke for the 1900 Universal Exhibition. Linke mentions indeed this “Encrier exposition” for the careful arrangement of his stand. The object we present here is a rare example of the model made in 1900, of which only seven casts are recorded today.

François Linke (1855-1946) remains nowadays well-known for his pieces of furniture, sometimes surprising, and always of extreme lavishness, where wood and gilt bronze are bringing each other out. He certainly was the most prominent French furniture manufacturer from the late 19th century until the eve of the Second World War, revealed at the 1900 Exposition.

A cabinetmaker of Czech origin, Linke arrived in Paris in 1875 and opened a shop on the Faubourg Saint-Antoine in 1881, which was visited by several rulers and personalities from around the world: the King of Sweden, the King of the Belgians, American heiress Anna Gould, Prince Radziwill. His most spectacular command was that of the King of Egypt Fouad I for the Ras el-Tin Palace in Alexandria, whose only equivalent is to be found in the orders of Louis XIV for Versailles Palace .

A specialist in the Regence style and Louis XV style, he worked from 1885 with the sculptor Léon Messagé towards the renewal of these past forms for a modern design. They obtained hence an original style halfway between the Rococo and the Art Nouveau. The skilled sculptor does not usually sign his contributions, very few objects with his signature are known while his collaboration with Linke is proven. It is along with Léon Messagé that a true “Linke style” is shaped, with characters and sculptures in particular, of which we have here a good example.

For the preparation of his stand at the 1900 Universal Exhibition, François Linke seems to have made a drawing of his inkwell project forLéon Messagé , which the latter substantially modified then. The Source represents two children with oars, leaning on each side of a jar from which water is springing. The water flows into a basin lined with vegetation, and cascades down the front of the inkwell. The living on “love and fresh water”, as would state the french idiom, is here symbolized by two children whose poses evoke the ecstasy of love, a fountain of youth for all ages. Conversely, the water stream refers metaphorically to the source of life, and in the case of an inkwell, it could be seen as the source of inspiration for a writer.

Messagé spent forty hours finalizing the sculpture of this precious inkwell, asking for 10 kg of metal for its cast. Given to the famous gilder and bronzemaker Henri Picard in September of 1900 for the final gilding, it was not quite finished at the opening of the Universal Exhibition and could only be displayed a few weeks before its end, in November. Despite late exhibition, the inkwell attracts the attention of Solomon Joel, a rich diamond-cutter of the Belle Époque, who acquires a large part of the Linke stand of the Universal Exhibition. Joel thus bought this first copy in 1901 for the important sum of 950 francs, and the success of this magnificent piece is later confirmed. Indeed, six more copies were sold between 1901 and 1925 at increasingly higher prices, culminating in 1913 at 14,030 francs for an unknown buyer. The great Solomon Joel, however, is not the only celebrity to have acquired the inkwell; Antonio Devoto, an important banker and philanthropist from Buenos Aires, was a buyer in 1913.

The inkwell is displayed again at the 1905 Universal Exhibition taking place in Liège, where it showed this time on a photograph. La Source is also used as an ornamentation group for the crosspiece of a table by François Linke, displayed as well in Liège in 1905, and that we see again in Elias Meyer’s apartment in 1909. Another copy of the table was purchased by Antonio Devoto again.

In 1900, Paris received the Universal Exhibition for the fifth time, on the theme of “the achievements of a century”. Ten times more extensive than the first exhibition organized in Paris in 1855, it runs from April 15 to November 12 and welcomes nearly 51 million visitors (the population of France at that time being 41 million). It is for this Exhibition that the Grand and Petit Palais are built, and that the Metropolitain subway is created.

83,047 exhibitors, including 38,253 French, participated in this 1900 Exhibition. The industrial art of the period was widely represented, including the bronze art industry, of which this inkwell executed by the Linke Factory is a perfect witness piece. According to Victor Champier, the gilt bronzes displayed at the 1900 Exhibition can be divided into two categories: those which are related by their form to tradition, in particular to the styles of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and those who, by seeking innovation and modernity, take on a whimsical appearance by their “eccentric silhouettes and extravagant lines”. It is the Universal Exhibition of the advent of Art Nouveau , called “modern art”. François Linke's work has been perceived as a success of the alliance between past forms and “modern” art, the Rococo being perfectly suited to the lyricism of line and nature.

Beneath its Louis XV style appearance, the design of this inkwell betrays his belonging to the 1900s, especially by its imaginatively hooded containers, which can recall stylized water lilies, unknown to past design vocabularies.

Price: on request

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