Germain Royal Soup Tureen
Germain Royal Soup Tureen is an 18th Century silver tureen, sold in November 1996 for $10,287,500. The maker
Thomas Germain (1673-1748) was a French silversmith of the Rococo, “a style of decoration current in Europe, particularly France, during the 18th century”.
The son of a Parisian silversmith, he began his career as a painter but later became apprentice to a Roman goldsmith.
He later returned to France and pursued the family profession.
In 1723, he was appointed ‘orfèvre du roi’ (English: silversmith to the king), thereafter undertaking many royal commissions for King Louis XV of France and the French royal family.
His fame was considerable in 18th Century France; Voltaire even “immortalized his ‘divine hand’ in a poem."
The tureen, from the collection of George Ortiz, was made in 1733 for Louis XV.
The tureen weighs 30lbs and its dimensions are 25.4cm high, 54.6cm wide and 41.3cm deep.
The “sumptuous tureen” was described by the New York Times as “a tour de force of silver in the rococo style.”
The lid, described as resembling “an Old Master painting”, depicts the “makings of a meal”, including vegetables, shellfish and a “sharp-beaked bird”.
The handles of the tureen are shaped like a boar’s head, while the feet “resemble those of wild hogs”.
It is “one of the few, and rare remaining Parisian silver soup tureens”, hence its high value.
Kevin Tierney, the head of silver at Sotheby’s, described the tureen as “an object steeped in history, that survived the melts ordered to pay for the Seven Years' War and the French Revolution.”
On 13th November 1996, the tureen was sold for $10,287,500 at Sotheby’s, New York. The buyer’s name was not disclosed.
This set a world record for the highest price paid for a single piece of silver at auction, tripling the former record.
The New York Times reported that it was also “the highest [price] paid at auction for a work of the French decorative arts”.