Lyonnais bronze mortar with buttresses and decorated standing figures, France, 17th century

Mis en ligne par le April 3, 2011

This apothecary bronze mortar rests on a small flared base of 65 mm in diameter.

The belly has four tricuspid sinusoid buttresses tricuspid buttresses separated by standing figures (rare model of buttress).

These figures are clockwise the following:

– A cherub

– A coat of arms of France “Azure three golden lilies (2 +1) stamped by the Royal Crown”

– A crayfish

– A grotesque

The basket shaped lip is delicately decorated with a frieze made of six inclined fleurs-de-lys alternate natural flowers.

Diameter at the mouth: 110 mm

Diameter at the base: 65 mm

Height: 74 mm

An early seventeenth century work of the Master of Pompée, Lyon, France.


2 mortars (No. 9 and No. 47) from the exceptional collection Vidal sold in Lyon in 2002 by Chaussin-Bremen-Guillaumot auction house, were comparable: coat of arms, winged cherub head, lion’s muzzle and crayfish –

However, their buttresses were right bicuspid and grooved –

The basket shaped lip frieze was only made of similar fleurs-de-lys.

One of this mortars was marked the initials BF. Because of this, Mr. Roudillon, expert of the sale, has suggested an attribution to a member of the Boys family from le Puy-en-Velay…

Nevertheless a mortar with the head of Pompée in my collection bears the initials “BS” (see: Mortier de Lyon à contreforts et pastillages de têtes de Pompée, France, XVII° siècle). However, these mortars decorated head of Pompey were produced in Lyon in the seventeenth century.

This mortar can be compared to the Mortier d’apothicaire à contreforts droits et pastillages, Lyon, France XVII° siècle from my collection: same size, same cast quality and identical figures. The only differences are the lip frieze: alternating flowers and fleurs-de-lys; and the tricuspid buttresses: one is sinusoid whereas it is right on the other one.

See images below:

This mortar seems to be uncommun because most or “crayfish mortars” showin identical figures have a lip simply decorated by a single figure (generally fleur-de-lys or natural flower).