By Helaine Fendelman and Joe Rosson
Scripps Howard News Service
---- — Do you have any idea what this chest might be? I have been looking for information about it for years and have found nothing. It is marked “Vers L’an 1480” and, below that, “M. Le Verrier.”
This is an extremely decorative metal chest or “casket,” and the inscription on the bottom translates as “about the year 1480.” This is meant to suggest that the design of this piece is based on one originally made circa 1480.
The “M. Le Verrier” refers to Max Le Verrier, a French sculptor and metal caster, who was born in Neuilly-sur-Seine in 1891. This “commune” is located on the banks of the Seine River a little more than 4 miles from the center of Paris.
Early on, Le Verrier showed talent as an artist and sculptor, but he did not actually study art until after his service in the French army during World War I. He began his art education at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Geneva, Switzerland, and returned to Paris in 1919 to establish his own studio.
While studying in Switzerland, Le Verrier met several sculptors who would become his lifelong friends. In 1925, Le Verrier exhibited at the famous Paris L’Exposition des Arts Decoratifs et Industrial -- and won a gold medal for his sculpture. The term “Art Deco” is derived from the name of this very influential exposition.
Le Verrier opened his own foundry in 1926, and developed a reputation for producing high-quality castings with exceptional detail.
In 1944, Le Verrier was arrested for his role in resisting the Nazi regime in France, but he lived to reopen his studio and continued to sculpt until his death in 1973. Le Verrier produced many fine works of art, but he also produced items that were meant to be more decorative than artistic -- and this casket belonging is one.
Le Verrier was one of the leaders of the Art Deco style in Paris, but he also produced work based on more historic models, and that appears to be the case in this instance. Collectors are very interested in Le Verrier’s Art Deco-style women figures, animals (pelicans, rhinoceros, monkeys, squirrels and so forth), lamps (often incorporating female figures) and car mascots.
But he also produced desk sets and accessories, bookends, lighting fixtures, plaques and, yes, boxes both large and small. The chest in today’s question appears to be a large example, and made from solid bronze. But it could be merely bronze plated over a cheaper metal. There is no way to be absolutely sure which without an in-person inspection.
This is a very interesting piece from an important Parisian foundry and was probably made during the second quarter of the 20th century. If it is solid bronze, we believe that a Le Verrier piece this large should have an insurance value in the $600-$800 range.
Helaine Fendelman and Joe Rosson are the authors of “Price It Yourself” (HarperResource, $19.95). Contact them at Treasures in Your Attic, PO Box 18350, Knoxville, TN 37928. Email them at firstname.lastname@example.org.