Jean-Baptiste-Claude Odiot was one of the most important French silversmiths of the early 19th century. His client list included almost every royal house in Europe, and his work helped establish the Greek- and Egyptian-inspired French empire phase of neoclassicism. With its sharply defined milled borders, circular stand, and classical vase form, this tureen dish is purely French.1A very similar, slightly earlier French tureen dish and stand by Jean-Baptiste-François Cheret is in the Espirito Santo foundation in Lisbon, and a slightly more elaborate one by Odiot is in the Residenz museum in Munich, Germany (French Master Goldsmiths, 218–19, and 296–97). Of simple profile, the highly-reflective surface is relieved by applied classical motifs such as cupids riding seahorses, wreaths, palmettes, and paw feet.
In 1809, President James Madison ordered a pair of silver tureens made by Jacques-Henri Fauconnier of Paris as furnishings for the White House.2Conger 1979, 112–334. It is quite likely that French silver inspired Robert Smith (1757–1842), Madison’s Secretary of State from 1809 to 1811, to purchase this tureen and some other silver from the French Ambassador General Louise-Marie Turreau’s (the French Minister Plenipotentiary) and his entourage when it left the United States about 1810.3A mate to this tureen, which also belonged to Robert Smith, was sold at Sotheby’s, New York, April 8, 1986, Lot 60, and again at Christie’s, New York, April 18, 1989, Lot 247.
Jennifer F. Goldsborough
Excerpted from Clement E. Conger, et al. Treasures of State: Fine and Decorative Arts in the Diplomatic Reception Rooms of the U.S. Department of State. New York: H.N. Abrams, 1991.