The 'Bellon' Vase

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The 'Bellon' Vase

122th - 13th Century, Syria
23 x 17 cm (9 x 6 ³/₄ inches)



A baluster-shaped ceramic vase with siliceous paste painted in manganese and cobalt, under a transparent glaze. With hand-painted blue and white decorations. Stone paste or ‘fritware’ vessels with lustre, turquoise, white and cobalt blue glazes were famously crafted in the northern Syrian city of Raqqa, situated on the Euphrates River. They were often utilitarian in design, but elegant and intricate in decoration. This present example was most likely used as a storage vessel. Like many transportable ceramics in the region, it is possible this piece was exported out of the city, either to be traded or as a container for more expensive goods.


Collection H Hoffmann, Objets D’Art, Drouot, 30 Mai 1888,  Paris, Lot 81.
David Aaron Ltd, 2023, No. 15.


Previously in the Private Collection of Mr Henri Hoffmann (1823-1897), Paris, prior to 1888.
Sold at: Collection H Hoffmann, Objets D’Art, Drouot, 30 Mai 1888, Paris, Lot 81.
Private Collection of Mr Louis-Gabriel Bellon (1819-1899) France (no. 291, catalogued as Mesopotamian, with 4 inventory labels), acquired from the above sale.
Thence by descent to his son Paul Bellon (1844-1928).
Thence by descent.
ALR: S00217422, with IADAA certificate, this item has been checked against the Interpol database.

Note on the Provenance

Henri Hoffmann (1823-1897), was a very well-known numismatist, expert at the Hôtel Drouot, scientific editor of the periodical Le Numismate (1862-1865), Member of the French Society of Numismatics and Member of the Royal Numismatic Society of Belgium. Henri Hoffmann was, throughout the second half of the 19th century, a key figure in the market for coins and medals, and from the Pourtalès sale of 1865, for antiques.

His activity as an antique dealer took precedence over numismatics from the 1880s, when he became, until his death, one of the main suppliers of antiquities in Paris. He sold more than 3000 antiques spread over approximately ten sales, where he had all responsibilities: seller, expert, catalogue editor, and collector. He was reputed to be close to Musée du Louvre curator Wilhelm Fröhner and had a central place in the world of antique dealers between 1870 and 1897.

Louis-Gabriel Bellon (1819-1899) is today regarded as an important collector of antiquities in 19th-century France. Born in Lille on the 20th October 1819, Bellon showed a keen interest in the arts from a very young age. He moved in the same circles as Corot and Daguerre, who later became friends.

From the 1850s, after having amassed his fortune, he began to indulge his passion for the antiquities of the ancient Mediterranean and set about leading regular excavations in his local area of Saint-Nicholas-les-Arras, where he restored Gallo-Roman and Merovingian necropolises.

He developed a particular interest in Greek terracotta Tanagra figurines, eventually being recognised as one of the leading experts in the field. His immense collection, the largest in France, exceeded that of de Clercq and Gréau; part of it featured in the famous retrospective exhibition at the Trocadéro in 1878, and Rouen in 1884. In his work Terres cuites grecques photographiées d'après les originaux des collections privées de France et des musées d'Athènes (Greek terracotta photographs based on the originals taken from private collections in France and from museums in Athens), A. Cartault replicated several of them and said: "They have come to form a sort of colony in Rouen, and experts, who go to visit them occasionally, are received with perfect grace from the lit cabinet they occupy on the banks of the Seine".
These elegantly draped women were among the several thousands of antique vases that were either unearthed during the excavations organised by Bellon or acquired from the best antiques dealers and memorable auctions of the time (Hoffman, Lavêque etc). Methodical and conscientious, Bellon kept meticulous records and inventories where each object was described, drawn and referenced with a precision that was remarkable for the time.

When he died on 20th May 1899, his son Paul (1844-1928), to keep the memory of his father and his passion alive, continued to add to the collection, eventually housing it in a purpose-built museum in Saint-Nicolas. This was tragically destroyed by bombing in the First World War, along with all its contents. Fortunately, some of his extraordinary collection had been preserved amongst his family, including the present work, and so the legacy of this important collector was not entirely lost.