Exhibition of French antiques

In celebration of the 41st anniversary of the Vietnamese-French relationship (1973-2014), the History Museum and Museum of Fine Arts in Ho Chi Minh City co-organised an exhibition of French antiques showcasing nearly 100 items reflecting a part of French components in Vietnamese culture.

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Visitors to the exhibition can observe a wide variety of exhibits with different shapes and materials such as a 26 piece dinner set for French nobility, a pair of Bertin vases, sea goddess statues, a Napoleon Bonaparte statue, a collection of oil lamps, sconces and other lighting equipment produced thousands of years ago.

Nearly 100 French antiques are exhibited at Ho Chi Minh City History Museum. Photo: Dang Kim Phuong /VNP


The exhibition draws much attention from the public both at home and abroad. Photo: Dang Kim Phuong/VNP


Students in Ho Chi Minh City are very interested in the exhibition. Photo: Dang Kim Phuong /VNP


The dinner set which was made from white glazed ceramic for only French noblemen in the 19th century, is the highlight of the exhibition. It is interesting that the set is a combination of eastern and western styled patterns. For instance, a plate in the set was decorated with a picture of “Seven Intellectuals in a Bamboo Forest”, which is a totally Eastern concept with all the seven men wearing Oriental clothes but with faces of Westerners. All the pieces in the dinner set have the stamp of Jules & Vie workshop in Bordeaux in the 19th century.

The exhibition also features a pair of Bertin vases which belong to a set of four vases named Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter made by Antoine Francois Dalacour by mold casting in 1859. The vases are 1 meter high with a radius of 0,6m and the reliefs were decorated by Léopold Joseph Gély using kaolin powder. It is recorded that the vases were presented to Napoleon III (1808-1873) as a tribute but few details are available about how the Spring and Winter vases ended up in Vietnam.

On display is also a ceramic plate with a portrait of Fouquier Tinville made in 1793. He earned a reputation as one of the most sinister prosecutors of the French Revolution (1789-1799) for prosecuting and condemning to death several figures such as Marie Antoinette, French nobleman and chemist Antoine Laurent de Lavoisier, Princess Elisabeth (Louis XVI’s youngest sibling), Madame du Barry (official mistress of Louis XV) and the poet Andre Chenier.

One of the most striking bronze antiques on display was a statue of Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821) on horseback. The posture and clothes of Napoleon Bonaparte shows that the statue is a replica of the famous painting of “Napoleon at the Saint-Bernard Pass” or “Bonaparte Crossing the Alps” painted by French artist Jacques Louis David between 1800 and 1803.


A metal statue of Napoleon from the 19th century. Photo: Dang Kim Phuong /VNP


A ceramic food container from the 19th century. Photo: Dang Kim Phuong/VNP

A porcelain tea pot from the 19th century. Photo: Dang Kim Phuong /VNP


Bertin vase made in 1859. Photo: Dang Kim Phuong /VNP


A porcelain pedestal tray from the 19th century. Photo: Dang Kim Phuong /VNP


A ceramic plate with a portrait of Fouquier Tinville made in 1973. Photo: Dang Kim Phuong /VNP

A metal lamp from the 19th century. Photo: Dang Kim Phuong/VNP

A porcelainplate from the 19th century. Photo: Dang Kim Phuong /VNP


A plate decorated with the image of French women from the 19th century. Photo: Dang Kim Phuong/VNP

A metal lamp from the 19th century. Photo: Dang Kim Phuong/VNP

An oil lamp from the 19th century. Photo: Dang Kim Phuong/VNP

A metal sconce from the 19th century. Photo: Dang Kim Phuong /VNP


The dinner set showsthe combination of eastern and western styled patterns. Photo: Dang Kim Phuong /VNP


What attracts visitors is that each exhibit is linked with an interesting occasion. The exhibition also represents French components which once existed in Vietnamese cultural history of diversity.

The exhibition will be open until June 2015 at Ho Chi Minh City History Museum (No. 2, Nguyen Binh Khiem Street, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City).

Story: Nguyen Vu Thanh Dat
Photos: Dang Kim Phuong