“Fortune,” model for the top of a fountain

James Tissot (1836-1902), painter
France, c. 1878-1882
Patinated bronze, silver-plated bronze, gilt bronze, silver, cloisonné enamel, walnut, glass
Gift of Albert Bichet, 1908
Inv. 14755
© MAD, Paris / photo: Jean Tholance

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The Nantes-born painter James Tissot was fascinated by Chinese and Japanese art, which he collected. From the late 1870s on, he produced art objects (vases, teapots, trays and jardinières) in cloisonné enamel with decorations inspired by the compositions of his paintings. The catalogue of his monographic exhibition in London in 1882 states that these enamels, whose composition was kept secret, were “invented, composed and executed by the artist himself.” This model, entitled Fortune and designed for a fountain or monument, is his most monumental and original piece. A veritable technical challenge, the sculpture combines bronze, silver and cloisonné enamel covering the globe, the tortoise’s shell and the base, which features the maxim “Tout vient à temps à qui sait attendre” (“All things come to those who wait”). This work with its complex imagery, showing Fortune sitting atop the world and fighting good and evil, is a manifesto for the Japanism and symbolism that were fashionable in the late nineteenth century.