Boîte à décor de feuilles de lotus
Whereas the famous reputation of the House of Christofle was built from the very beginning on its silverware, the copperware it produced was less well-known. Christofle mainly developed its production of brass and copper objects during the First World War, when the factory, dedicating itself to the war effort, stopped working with precious metals. However, it would seem that this bonbonnière was made before 1914, and should be considered as one of the company's early attempts in this technique, brought back into fashion in 1910 by Jean Dunand. It therefore fits into the late 19th century and early 20th century revival of works in non-precious materials.
The ultimate expression of Japanism, the shape of the object reflects those of Japanese lacquered boxes used for powdered tea. But the lotus flower motif continues the tradition of Art Nouveau, and the highly stylised treatment is consistent with the simple, strong lines that were used by decorators like Paul Follot and Léon Jallot between 1908 and 1910. This style would flourish after the war in the period known as Art Deco. Finally, the dark brown decoration, patinated through oxidation for a lacquer effect, is in light relief, the background having been etched and gilded.
Although this metalwork continues the research into the effects of patina and materials which began in 1867 by Henri Bouilhet, director of Christofle, it was no longer the Japanese technique of mokume gane, or damascening that they wanted to copy, but rather exotic woods with striations in the grain, like bamboo and coconut palm. We must remember that this was the moment when artists were becoming acquainted with the early collections of primitive art, and when "negro" art was influencing Cubism.