Jean-Désiré Ringel d'Illzach was born in Illzach, in Alsace-Lorraine, France in 1847. By the age of fifteen, he had moved to Paris to study music and art. He studied sculpture under Julius Hähnel in Dresden, and then worked in Paris in the studios of François Jouffroy and Alexander Falguière at the École des Beaux-Arts. After an unsuccessful period in Paris, he returned to Alsace in 1865, and continued as a musician. In 1870 when Ringel was twenty-three Alsace-Lorraine was annexed to Germany as part of the settlement for the Prussian victory during the Franco-Prussian War. To assert his French heritage, Ringel added the name of his native Alsatian village, Illzach, to his surname.
In 1877 he traveled to Italy, probably at his own expense. There he made sketches that demonstrate the deep impression that ancient and Renaissance art had on his work. Details from these drawings, such as classical forms and ornament, are directly reflected in his three-dimensional work.
The overall form of this pair of vases exemplifies this. The shape with twisted, fluted handles is directly based on an ancient Roman volute krater (mixing vessel) from Pompeii that the sculptor drew during a visit to the archaeological museum in Naples in 1877. The decoration with classicizing details is based on his Italian impressions. The frieze between the voluptuous ears is decorated with ancient warriors on chariots. The vase is decorated with the triumph of Bacchus. The foot shows sea-creatures which already show his later fascination with bizarre and fantastical symbolist themes and iconography.
This pair of monumental vases was probably designed by Ringel shortly after his trip to Italy. The casting was done by Casse & Delpy in Paris. The Getty Museum collection owns a later designed bronze volute krater which was first exhibited on the Exposition Universelle (world's fair) in Paris in 1889.
Signed: Ringer Napoli Casse & Delpy - Fondeurs
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