July 7 – I'm going off on a tangent today to write about one particular piece that sold at Morlaix yesterday: the A. Porquier publicity plaque for snuff bottles. This one-of-a-kind piece was first presented to the collecting public 20 years ago in Michel Roullot's book on 18th and 19th century Quimper pottery. Since that time, it has also been featured in other major works, such as the catalogue of the tri-centennial exhibit in Quimper and the Encyclopédie.
It measures just about 20" high and about 16" wide, and it is pierced at the top so that it can be hung. The back is completely flat, and it is rather heavy – not surprising for a solid plaque. It is also in pristine condition, perhaps more surprising (however, without knowing it for a fact, I have the impression that it has not had many owners in its lifetime). Its form (which in itself resembles one of the snuff bottles – see the one with the Bretonne) features scaled-down models of the snuff bottle collection manufactured by Porquier, with a croisillé fan vase in the middle. And many (although certainly not all) of the various motifs found on the snuffs were used to decorate the plaque, including different croisillons, a Breton, a Bretonne, geometrics, the flaming double heart, heraldic symbols, etc. One of the most well-known motifs is the one on the book snuff on the lower left: the inscription over the rooster says: Quand ce coq chantera, mon amour finira (When this rooster sings, my love will end) – since this particular rooster will NEVER sing, it's a splendid declaration of undying love!
So this really is a fabulous piece, in terms of its rarity, its design, and its execution. As I mentioned the other day, it was estimated at 3-5000 euros, and the rumors were that it would go for three times that price. As it turned out, the gavel price was 19 000 euros, and, as is often the case for an important buy, there was applause in the room when the gavel came down. (On a funny note, just afterwards, the auction house phone in the room rang. Everyone laughed, and somebody said, "Trop tard!", as in "Too late to bid on this one!").
On a very personal note, I was sad that I could not share the tale of the sale of this piece with Ann. We had fun times and adventures buying snuffs together, and she would have so appreciated the opportunity to participate in the experience.