Ferdinand Barbedienne (1810 - 1892)

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Ferdinand Barbedienne (1810 - 1892)

A ‘Japonisme’ Patinated Bronze and Cloisonné Enamel Table by Ferdinand Barbedienne, The Design Attributed to Edouard Lièvre

France, Circa 1870

REF No. B76040

Signed to the Bronze Socle 'F. BARBEDIENNE'


Height :89 cm | 35 in
Width :87 cm | 34¹/₄ in
Depth :56 cm | 22 in


A ‘Japonisme’  Patinated Bronze and Cloisonné  Enamel Table by Ferdinand Barbedienne, The Design Attributed to Edouard Lièvre, France, Circa 1870

The top of Chinese enamel cloisonné decorated with flowers dating to the Qing Dynasty, Jiaqing period (1796-1820) within a gilt and patinated bronze pierced cloud pattern gallery. The columnar shaft modelled as four rope tied bamboo flanked by open latticework bamboo branches and adorned with dragons. On a circular socle and outscrolled feet.

Signed to the bronze socle 'F. BARBEDIENNE'

France, circa 1870.

The rare and important table encapsulates the fashion for the ‘le style japonais et chinois’ which swept Paris in the mid-19th century and was inspired by Empress Eugénie's Musée chinois at the Château de Fontainebleau and the opening of trade with Japan. This occasioned a revival of the study of the art and culture of the Far East, which itself was greatly advanced by Japan’s participation in the World’s Fairs, or Great Exhibitions of Art and Industry, which for the first time presented for public consumption a dazzling array of Asian artworks and techniques including cloisonné enamel, marquetry of shell and ivory, carved wood and patinated bronze. Western artists created their own works by adopting and reinterpreting this newfound source of inspiration. The ensuing style, an amalgamation of Eastern and Western influences was coined ‘Japonisme’ and itself went on to inspire the organic forms of Art Nouveau and Aestheticism.

In making a bronze table to display a panel of Chinese cloisonné enamel, Ferdinand Barbedienne continues in the ancien régime tradition of the marchand-mercier, whereby an ébéniste would incorporate ‘Oriental’ lacquer or enamel into a French made piece of furniture or a bronzier would mount a precious Chinese porcelain vase with gilt-bronze.

Following the 1860 French imperial campagne de Chine, immense caches of enamels from the Summer Palace (Yuanming Yuan), Beijing, were placed on public display at the Tuileries, from which Empress Eugénie selected pieces for her Musée chinois at the Château de Fontainebleau. The rooms at Fontainebleau were remodeled with furniture supplied by French makers to complement the Chinese works of art displayed.  Chief among these artisans was Ferdinand Barbedienne, who notably adapted the cover of a Qianlong incense burner and a Kangxi vase (both from the Summer Palace) in order to create a three-meter high chandelier of lantern-form with swirling ormolu candle arms (extant at Fontainebleau, inv. F. 1324 C).

The ‘sino-japonais’ designs of Barbedienne can be attributed to the draftsman and designer Édouard Lièvre who was a key proponent of ‘Japonsime’. Towards the late 1870s, Lièvre created a suite of Japanese-inspired furniture for Albert Vieillard (d. 1895), the renowned director of Bordeaux’s ceramics manufactory, including his celebrated Cabinet Japonais, now in the Musée d'Orsay (inv. OAO555), and it is from this moment onwards that we see engagement between Lièvre and the arts of Japan.

Édouard Lièvre (1828-1886)

Édouard Lièvre (1828-1886) was one of the most talented draughtsmen and prolific industrial designers of the second half of the 19th century. He was archetypal of a new class of artists in the 19th century who rose above the craftsmen guild system to become industrial designers, free to fully express their genius across the arts. Like his illustrious contemporaries, such as Carrier-Belleuse, Constant Sévin, Froment-Meurice and Emile Reiber, Lièvre sought to express his art through multiple mediums – he learnt printing, drawing, gouache, metalwork, sculpture and ébénisterie. Embodying the industrial aspirations of his day, he utilised the most advanced technology to realise his designs, of which his ‘sino-japonais’ and neo renaissance creations, are époque defining.

A polymath, as a child Lièvre was taught lithographic printing in Nancy before being apprenticed to a foundry where he learnt bronze casting and draughtsmanship. Arriving in Paris penniless, to earn a living he painted portraits and made models for manufacturer’s bronzes, and studied watercolour painting under Théodore Valerio (d. 1879). Trips to Belgium inspired a fascination for the Flemish baroque painter Jacob Jordaens, and further training followed in Thomas Couture’s atelier. Although Lièvre exhibited at the Salon in the 1860s, painting was not his preferred métier.

Lièvre found his vocation in producing two important publications which contributed to a reawakening of antiquarian interest in Second Empire France. The first being a catalogue for the Collection Sauvageot, with text by Alexandre Sauzay and illustrations by Édouard Lièvre, published in 1863. The Charles Sauvageot Collection of objets d’art was donated to the Musée  du Louvre in 1856. The second title, ‘Les Collections célèbres d’oeuvres d’art dessinées et gravées d’apres les originaux par Edouard Lièvre’, published in 1866, was a catalogue of celebrated works of art from the Gothic to Louis XVI periods including pieces again from the Sauvageot bequest, bust also works belonging to Baron James de Rothschild, the Comte de Nieuwerkerke and the Marquess of Hertford, with ‘texts historiques’ by leading academicians including Henry Cole, Albert Jacquemart and Paul Manz. These publications show the historical breadth of Lièvre’s appreciation of ornament and the high regard in which he was held by the art elite of the day. Illustrating these publications allowed Lièvre to travel to French museums and to visit collections in England, and the experience honed his eye and furthered his learned appreciation of ornament. Such an assiduous contemplation of beautiful things inspired Lièvre to make his own designs and produce his own works of art. He saw furniture in particular as the more glorious art and of central importance to the home.  Often assisted by his brother Justin, he firstly produced works of art for his own apartment, seeking out the best craftsmen to execute his designs for bronzes, ceramics, fabrics and luxury furniture of great ingenuity and taste. Lièvre was then engaged by these craftsmen to design works for their firms, including the ébéniste Paul Sormani, the silversmith Christofle, as well as marchands merciers such as Escalier de Cristal, and bronziers such as Maison Marnyhac, and France’s leading bronze fondeur, Ferdinand Barbedienne. Additionally, following in the tradition of marchands-merciers, Lièvre also began to extend his practice by designing furniture and objects for important private clients, which were then executed by these prestigious firms. These clients included Sarah Bernhardt (for whom he designed a monumental cheval mirror), the courtesan Louise-Emilie Valtesse de la Bigne (for whom he designed an impressive bed, now in the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, inv. DO 1981-19), and Édouard Detaille, the famous military artist (for whom Lièvre supplied a console d'apparat).

'Dans la composition du meuble, il emprunte le point de départ aux modèles consacrés. Il songe à l'art oriental Renaissance, au style Louis XVI; mais il ne les répète point. [...] il ajoute sa pensée à celle des créateurs prim pins en plus soucieux de la grâce sévère ou souriante, il parvient à exécuter des œuvres d'art qui ont un cachet meuble d'Édouard Lièvre est toujours conçu en raison de l'usage auquel il est destiné et du rôle qu'il doit jouer environnant. Bien qu'il soit d'un très riche travail, il ne reçoit que l'ornement qu'il comporte, [...] Le bois y e des mains savantes, le bronze s'embellit de ciselures délicates ou fières et, si soigné qu'il soit, le détail ne parle haut dans l'ensemble. Enfin, l'exécution toujours surveillée avec un soin jaloux, a cette loyauté qu'on réclamat chef-d'œuvre que devait accomplir le compagnon ambitieux d'obtenir son brevet de maîtrise.'
P. Eudel, L'Hôtel Drouot et la Curiosité en 1886-1887, Paris, 1888, p. 118

Catalogue des Meubles d’Art de la Succession de feu de M. Edouard Lièvre, 21-24 March 1887, no. 16.
P. Eudel, L’Hôtel Drouot et la Curiosité en 1886-1887, Paris, 1888.
'Édouard Lièvre', Connaissance des Arts, N° 228, Paris 2004.
Optima propagare Edouard Lièvre: Créateur de meuble & objets d’art, Galerie Roxane Rodriguez, Paris, 2004.
Annick et Didier Masseau, L’Escalier de Cristal Le luxe à Paris 1809-1923, Paris, 2021, p. 110-117.



Ferdinand Barbedienne (1810-1892) was the inspiration and driving force behind one of the most important French art foundries. He pioneered the use of mounts and, more commonly, bronze sculpture including figures and animals. Barbedienne produced catalogues of bronze reproductions of Greek and Roman classical sculpture and experimented with champlève and cloisonné enamels during the third quarter of the century. Barbedienne exhibited several pieces of furniture at the 1855 Paris Exhibition including an ormolu mounted oak dressing table and an ormolu mounted ebony veneered bookcase. Both pieces were executed in his favoured Renaissance revival style for furniture. Furniture with mounts signed by Barbedienne is extremely rare.

The Barbedienne foundry handled the casting of numerous national monuments and architectural schemes. Ferdinand Barbedienne himself also took an active part in the promotion of contemporary sculpture and became one of the founders for Davis d'Angers' medallions as well as much of Rude's sculpture.

His signature varied from hand written capitals to stamp in capitals, usually F. Barbedienne, Fondeur or BARBEDIENNE PARIS.
In 1839 Barbedienne collaborated with the inventor Achille Collas who had succeeded in enlarging and reducing works of art to arbitrary sizes by a simple mathematical calculation, allowing the accurate reduction of classical and contemporary marbles for the purpose of reproduction in bronze. In 1850 Barbedienne was commissioned to furnish the Paris town hall for which he was awarded with the 'medaille d' honneur' at the Paris Exposition Universelle in 1855.

Barbedienne's awards:
Paris, 1878; 'Grand Prix', 'Grande Médaille d'Or', 'Diplôme d'honneur' , and 28 'Médailles de Coopérateurs'.
Vienna 1873; 2 'Diplômes d'Honneur', 'Médailles de Progrès', and 25 'Médailles de Coopérateurs'.
Paris 1867: 'Jure Rapporteur (Hors Concours)'.
London 1862; 3 Medals for Excellence.
Paris 1855; 'Grande Médaille d'Honneur'.
London 1851; 2 Council Medals.

Makers Bibliography:
Barbedienne, Ferdinand, Catalogue des Bronzes d'art 1886 , Fonderie d'art Français: Val d'Osne, Fonderie de Tusey, Antoine-Louis Barye, Fonderie Rudier, Charles Crozatier, Ferdinand Barbedienne, Livres Groupe, (Paris) 2010
Mestdagh, Camille and Pierre Lecoules, L'Ameublement d'art français: 1850-1900, Editions de l'Amateur (Paris), 2010, pp.23, 120, 155, 161 and 179.

Kjellberg, Pierre, Les Bronzes du XIX Siècle, dictionnaire des sculpteurs, Editions de l'Amateur (Paris) 1987, pps.653-658.
Meyer, Jonathan, Great Exhibitions: London, New York, Paris, Philadelphia, 1851-1900, Antique Collector's Club (Woodbridge, UK), 2006.

Ledoux-Lebard, Denise, Les Ebénistes du XIX Siècle, Editions de l'Amateur, (Paris) 1984, p.38.
Cooper, Jeremy, 19th Century Romantic Bronzes, New York Graphic Society, 1975 pps. 25, 41,149.

Ferdinand Barbedienne

A ‘Japonisme’ Patinated Bronze and Cloisonné Enamel Table by Ferdinand Barbedienne, The Design Attributed to Edouard Lièvre

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