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Paul-François Berthoud "Femme-Papillon" Bronze Planter

This French Art Nouveau planter in the form of an amphora features a butterfly that cradles the head of a woman, giving the effect that they are floating. The otherwise low-relief sculpture becomes high-relief when the woman’s hair ascends into becoming the opening of the vessel, framing her face which playfully gazes to the left. Emerging from either side of the figures are two peacock feathers that extend over the object’s handles, meeting at a soft point on the reverse side of the amphora’s opening. Smaller decorative aspects of the vase include gilt piping, gilt lotus pods, and low bronze decorative motifs likely copied from a L’Art Decoratif tome.

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  • Curator's Notes

Item #: S-20957
Artist: Paul-François Berthoud
Country: France
Circa: 1900
Dimensions: 16.5" height, 8.5" diameter
Materials: Gilt and Patinated Bronze
Signed: Foundry Mark "Paris Louchet Ciseleur"
Literature: A similar vase is pictured in: Dynamic Beauty: Sculpture of Art Nouveau Paris, by Macklowe Gallery, The Studley Press, 2011, p. 54.

This exquisite planter’s name “Femme-Papillon” is French for butterfly woman, the primary motif of the planter. This motif is popular in Art Nouveau artwork, however, it is of note that this iconography is borrowed from conventional Classical art. In the context of ancient times, butterflies along with women would allude to the Greek goddess Psyche, whose name in English means soul. Butterflies in classical art usually signify freedom, transformation, or rebirth, as too do the lotus pods featured at the base of the planter.