A monumental vase by Ringel d’Illzach joins the Getty Museum


1. Jean-Désiré Ringel d’Illzach
(1847-1916)
Monumental vase, 1889
Bronze and copper- H. 273 cm
Los Angeles, The J.
Paul Getty Museum
Photo : Etienne Bréton/Saint Honoré
Art Consulting

3/01/10 – Acquisition–Los Angeles, The J. Paul Getty Museum – The work recently acquired by the Getty museum is exceptional, both in size and artistic importance. It is one of those which we regret was not acquired by a French museum. From now on, art lovers will have to travel to California to admire it.

This bronze vase, two metres seventy-three centimeters high, was considered sensational at the Exposition Universelle of 1899. The artist, the French sculptor Jean-Désiré Ringel, known as Ringel d’Illzach as he was born in this Alsatian village, was a student of Alexandre Falguière. He was famous for his constant technical innovations, using notably, for some of his sculptures, a preparation devised by him with a coloured wax base of paraffin, clay and stearin. At the Salon of 1879, he had exhibited a nude in this material, entitled The Demi-Monde, found to be scandalous [1].

This bronze is a remarkable reflection of Ringel’s experimentations using a totally original founding technique. It was so unique in fact that it is no longer understood today. We are thus at a loss here to describe a process which even reviewers at the time found difficult to explain : “The author states that he founded his work directly on soft earth, as well as his medallions. And even a superficial study shows that he is telling the truth. This is in fact rough founding, in all its naiveté, without any touch-ups of any kind : an exact image of the clay, frozen in bronze with its thumb prints, traces of chisel, the very impressions of the strange and varied materials which the artist placed there to amuse himself, to better demonstrate the sincerity of the work, strips of canvas, ribbons, pieces of fabric, impasting of barbotine !... This innovator not only sets out to reproduce fresh earth in bronze, but also a shred of velvet, a silk bow, a woolen tassel, a dead or live animal. And, there is no denying it, supposing it all true, this constitutes a feat never attempted before, at least in Europe” [2].


2. Jean-Désiré Ringel d’Illzach (1847-1916)
Monumental vase (detail), 1889
Bronze and copper- H. 273 cm
Los Angeles, The J. Paul Getty Museum
Photo : Etienne Bréton/Saint Honoré
Art Consulting

3. Jean-Désiré Ringel d’Illzach (1847-1916)
Monumental vase (detail), 1889
Bronze and copper- H. 273 cm
Los Angeles, The J. Paul Getty Museum
Photo : Etienne Bréton/Saint Honoré
Art Consulting


But this object cannot just be summed up by its technical prowess. Its monumental and truly impressive size also presents myriad delicate details : the bronze surface is scattered with many small animals (a spider–ill. 2, a snail–ill. 3, a bat–ill. 4,…), plants (ill. 5) abstract or geometric motifs (ill. 6), etc. Although the spirit of the work already points to Art Nouveau or Symbolism, its form, particularly the scrolled handles, finds its inspiration mainly in a Roman vase discovered in Pompey (Naples, Archeological Museum) which Ringel had seen and drawn during a trip to Italy in 1877.


4. Jean-Désiré Ringel d’Illzach (1847-1916)
Monumental vase (detail), 1889
Bronze and copper- H. 273 cm
Los Angeles, The J. Paul Getty Museum
Photo : Etienne Bréton/Saint Honoré Art Consulting

5. Jean-Désiré Ringel d’Illzach (1847-1916)
Monumental vase (detail), 1889
Bronze and copper- H. 273 cm
Los Angeles, The J. Paul Getty Museum
Photo : Etienne Bréton/Saint Honoré Art Consulting


6. Jean-Désiré Ringel d’Illzach (1847-1916)
Monumental vase (detail), 1889
Bronze and copper- H. 273 cm
Los Angeles, The J. Paul Getty Museum Photo : Etienne Bréton/Saint Honoré Art Consulting

After the Exposition of 1899, the vase was displayed for two years at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs which unfortunately did not acquire it despite this being the artist’s wish at the time. He recovered it and took it back to Belgium where it had been founded by the Compagnie des Bronzes de Bruxelles which held it until 1970. Since then, it had been in a Belgian private collection. It was purchased by the Getty Museum with the help of Etienne Bréton. The vase has been temporarily installed in the museum’s western pavilion and in the fall of 2010 will be presented permanently in the Symbolism section.


Didier Rykner, dimanche 3 janvier 2010


Notes

[1] Cf Mady Ménier in the Dictionnaire de la sculpture, Paris, 1992.

[2] Philippe Daryl, « Chronique de l’Exposition », Le Temps, 29e année, n° 10305, 24 juillet 1889. Original version : L’auteur affirme qu’il a fondu directement sa pièce sur la terre molle, de même que ses médaillons. Et l’examen le plus superficiel suffit à démontrer qu’il dit vrai. C’est en effet la fonte brute, dans toute sa naïveté, sans retouches d’aucune espèces : l’image exacte de la glaise, figée en bronze avec ses coups de pouce, ses traces d’ébauchoir, l’empreinte même des matériaux bizarres et variés que l’artiste s’est amusé à y plaquer pour mieux montrer la sincérité de l’oeuvre, des bandes de toile, des rubans, des bouts d’étoffe, des empâtements de barbotine !... Car ce n’est pas seulement la terre fraîche que ce novateur prétend reproduire en bronze, c’est un lambeau de velours, un noeud de soie, un gland de laine, un animal mort ou vivant. Or, il n’y a pas à se le dissimuler, si l’assertion est justifiée, elle suppose un tour de force que personne n’a jamais tenté, au moins en Europe



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