Inventory Number BCN001
Size 13.5" H x 13" W x 12" D
Material Silver, partial gilt, champlevé
Period Art Nouveau
Country of Origin France
This rare smoking set was produced by the French jeweler Boucheron around 1878. The enameled set is made of gilt silver and champlevé, and includes several components, some of which are removable. The rounded triangular base is modeled as a cloud of smoke and sits on three feet with vermiclé decoration, the surface etched with geometric patterns. The base is composed of a partly-inset tobacco jar with cover and openwork border, and topped by a fully-modeled geisha in a kimono and obi, playing an instrument. The set also includes an openwork lattice cigar holder; a detachable lighter formed as a caparisoned elephant with upraised trunk; a central vase decorated with cloisonné enamel plum blossoms, beetle, bird, butterfly, and geometric patterns; and a mei-ping form snuff container with fu-dog finial, enameled with butterfly and dragonfly motifs, and a liner enameled with Japanese pavilion.
Other pieces in the same style that can be attributed to Legrand include an enameled inkstand dated 1876, now in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. This piece is original in that Boucheron made few if any works including the figures of an elephant and a music player sitting on a lid. It is highly possible that the idea for this set came directly from a customer who commissioned it. The seated woman looks almost identical to a figure from an 1876 Boucheron silver set titled "Japanese Light'.
The design of this set is attributed to Paul Legrand (1840-1910), a French designer and engraver who joined Boucheron in 1863. Legrand worked at Boucheron until 1867 and then did a stint at Froment-Meurice followed by one at Baugrand before returning permanently to Boucheron in 1871, where he remained until his retirement in 1892. His designs are distinctive. Legrand was primarily a colorist who was captivated by the effects of light; hence, he used transparent enamels, crystal glass, various patinas, and gold. He was strongly influenced by the Orientalist aesthetic that was popular among artists and designers in the late 19th century.
At the 1878 Paris Exposition, where Frédéric Boucheron won a grande medaille for joaillerie-bijouterie, he lodged a report with the jury praising his collaborators. He said of designer Paul Legrand: "He is a born colorist and loves inventiveness - he has always worked at achieving effects of light, different patinas or gilding in his creations, [through] the use of openwork, enamelling and rock crystal; and they have always conferred considerable success on my firm...All my goldsmith's work in the Japanese style is by him" (cited in Gilles Néret, Boucheron: Four Generations of a World-Renowned Jeweler, p. 47).