gold, opaque champlevé and basse-taille enamel, diamonds
height 15 cm
Jean-Pierre, son of the jeweller Benoît-Roch Marrel, registered his first mark, for la fantasie, from 19 rue Croix des Petits-Champs on 1 August 1833. The same mark was re-registered in 1852 for Marrel frères. In fact, the two brothers, Jean-Pierre and Benoît, the latter an excellent designer and chaser, had already gone into business in the 1830s. According to the almanac Azur (1847), their workshop was at 23 rue des Moulins and their shop at 27 rue de Choiseuil. They won a gold medal at their first exhibition in 1839 (Produits de l’Industrie Française) where they showed ‘a basket, two vases and a bowl decorated with enamelled arabesques’.
By the time of the Great Exhibition of 1851, their only rivals were considered to be Froment-Meurice and Morel, although today Marrel frères are less well known. Vever recorded the extent of their output: ‘a wide range of objects, but always of superior craftsmanship: jugs, cups, ewers and goblets in 15th and 16th century styles; small vases, desk objects, scent bottles, boxes and snuff boxes decorated with gems, niello and enamelled scrolls in Venetian, Florentine and Oriental taste, as well as beautiful jewellery of great richness and variety’. The present cup and cover, decorated with diamonds and enamelled arabesques, fits well within this breathless list. Whether its playful mauresques were intended to captive an Ottoman or a Frankish market is uncertain.
Haydn Williams, Enamels of the World: 1700-2000 The Khalili Collections, London 2009, cat. 55, p. 103.