Drageoir in Vonêche crystal

A superb Vonêche crystal drageoir (or bonbonnière) has been acquired thanks to the Germaine Delchambre and Robert Merveille Collection Fund. Entrusted to the Société Archéologique de Namur, this exceptional piece can be admired at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in the Hôtel de Groesbeeck-de Croix when it reopens.

This 53 cm high drageoir sparkles brilliantly thanks to its diamond-cut crystal and the decorative mouldings that grace the piece, from its square base up to its lid. Originally destined to hold sweets or spices, the drageoir is an exceptional object and was without doubt one of the most costly models ever produced by the crystal workshops of Monsieur d'Artigues, alongside its crystal urns and ‘stationery vases’. Made around 1820, this drageoir was probably created as a commission since it goes beyond the usual standards of production for this type of object.

The acquisition was made possible thanks to the Germaine Delchambre and Robert Merveille Collection Fund, managed by the King Baudouin Foundation, which has entrusted the drageoir to the Société Archéologique de Namur for it to be exhibited at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in the l’Hôtel de Groesbeeck-de Croix.

Although works of crystal made during this period were rarely marked, there is no doubt, given its great quality, that this drageoir was made by the Cristallerie de Vonêche in Beauraing, one of the most prestigious crystal factories in Europe in the early 19th century.

In 1802, the industrialist Aimé-Gabriel d’Artigues took over the Verreries Sainte-Anne de Vonêche, which had been founded in 1778. With his degree in chemistry, d’Artigues had already been experimenting in the production of pure lead crystal and, aware of the importance of science and technology working together, he made every effort to perfect the manufacture of crystal through laboratory research. Vonêche rapidly became the most important glassworks in the French Empire, attracting numerous families specialized in crystal making from Alsace and Lorraine.

By 1806, the fame of Vonêche was undisputed. In preparation for the French Trade Fair (l’Exposition générale et publique des produits de l’industrie française), d’Artigues submitted samples of his crystal for examination by members of the Consultative Committee for the Arts and Manufacture of Namur. Members of the committee confirmed that the crystal and the work done to create it were of the greatest beauty. The engraving was perfect, whilst the prices of the company’s crystal appeared to be very reasonable.

A few years later, a report by J.-B.X. Wasseige, a deputy of the Fabriques et Manufactures de la Province de Namur, dated 25 February 1816, pointed out that this crystal works was without doubt one of the finest in Europe; not only could it supply crystal for the domestic market, but it could also make considerable exports abroad. Despite the region becoming part of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands in 1815, d’Artigues made sure that his company could continue to supply his French clients by acquiring the Verrerie de Baccarat in Lorraine, through which he could import his crystal of Vonêche into France.

The Vonêche workshops had a glass-cutting workshop and an engraving workshop. However, some raw pieces of crystal purchased in Vonêche were then cut in other factories in Brussels or Paris. This practice was to mark the beginning of the decline in crystal making, which then accelerated from 1825 as competition began to develop. Former associates of d’Artigues founded the Société Anonyme des Verreries et Etablissements du Val Saint-Lambert, as well as the Glacerie Sainte-Marie d’Oignies and the Société des Produits Chimiques de Vedrin. These setbacks would lead to the fall of this industrial flagship of Namur.

The drageoir acquired by the Germaine Delchambre and Robert Merveille Collection Fund today provides us with a final testimony to the fabulous history of Vonêche, a name that now inspires art historians, antique dealers and collectors.

Material / technique: 
Diamond-cut and moulded crystal on a graded square, flaring and facetted foot
H. 53 cm
Type of acquisition: 
Acquired by the Germaine Delchambre and Robert Merveille Collection Fund
Year of acquisition: 
Depository institution: 
Musée des Arts décoratifs – Hôtel de Groesbeeck-de Croix, Namur