The discreet refinement of this very elegant piece comes from the materials used. Here Black Belgium marble, highly appreciated for its purity and fine texture allowing for a perfect finish, is inlaid with malachite and adorned with finely chiseled gilded bronze. The contrast between the depth of the black and the intensity and luminosity of the green stone is striking.
The body of the inkwell rests on a round plate. The sides of the plate curve up and are a decorated with a geometrical frieze underlining the edge, and its center, which rises to support the inkwell, is surrounded by a design of four linked arrows. The ogee curved stand of the inkwell is gilded bronze; it is ringed and rises to support the remarkably polished marble bowl. The bases of the vertical handles are adorned with bronze ram heads topped with acanthus leaves and show an exquisite delicacy of carving. The high point of the handles level off and form a flower blossom in a square. The handles then split and link to the inkwell in a floral motif, bringing lightness to the composition. The top of the bowl is short, adorned with a frieze that echoes the one on the plate below. A gilded frieze around the opening of the bowl and the cover links the two esthetically and hides the hinge. Two malachite circles underline the cover, which is crowned with a gilded flower blossom.
The inkwell is signed MEDAILLE D’OR 186, CI-DEVANT [RU]E DE LA PAIX, Bould des Italiens, and can be dated between 1869, when Tahan moved to that address, and 1882, when he sold his business. Tahan had inherited his father’s cabinet making business and enlarged the production, specializing in precious objects that very much pleased the aristocratic and financial elite of the times. He became Supplier to the Emperor in 1855 and collaborated with a large array of artists, earning many awards in World’s Fairs.