Design for a Monstrance

Meissonnier, Juste-Aurèle (b.1693, d.1750)
Audran, Benoit II
Jacques-Gabriel Huquier (French, b.1730, d.1805)
Place of Production:
red chalk on paper
Type of Object:
design drawings
Accession number:
Cat no:


This design incorporates the asymmetry, shell-like decoration and curving, swelling forms of Meissonnier’s style at its most innovative. Alastair Laing has called this drawing ‘one of the key datable incunabula of the Rococo…’ (Laing, 2006, p.316)

Born in Turin, Meissonnier was apprenticed to his father who was a sculptor and silversmith. He arrived in Paris in 1714 and became one of the most versatile designers of his time. His designs ranged from entire buildings to snuffboxes and cane-handles and were disseminated through prints.

The draughtsman, probably Benoit II Audran, copied Meissonnier’s lost drawing in order to engrave it. The engraving (in reverse) was published in the "Livre d’Orfèverie d’Eglise, Troisieme Livre des Œuvre de J. A. Meissonier", with the title 'Soleil Executé en argent pour les Religieuses Carmelites de Poitiers en 1727', although nothing more is known about the circumstances of the commission. The monstrance was intended to contain the consecrated Host in the central sunburst surrounded by adoring cherubim. The corn and vines laden with grapes – as the constituents of bread and wine – are symbols of the Eucharist. Meissonnier’s design defies the weight of silver with its suggestion of upward organic growth and radiating light. Each chalk mark is clear enough for translation on to a copper plate. An indented grid, almost invisible to the naked eye, helped the copyist to reproduce Meissonnier’s original drawing or the engraver to copy the design.

Juliet Carey, 2012

Brief Description

The design is asymmetrical and also abolishes all distinction between structure and ornament. It forms the object entirely from symbols of the Eucharist - grape-laden tendrils of the vine and stalks of corn - and from the cherubim in billowing clouds adoring the central 'sun' intended to contain the consecrated Host. There is Rococo use of shells and shell-like gadrooning.

Physical description

Dimensions (mm):
460 x 200
Signature & Date:
not signed or dated
bunch of grapes over a five- or-six letter name


Owned by Marie-Joseph(-etc.) Beccaria de Pavie, marquis de Fourquevaux (b.1762, d.1841); acquired at the posthumous sale of the marquis de Fourquevaux, Paris, 18-20 April 1876, as one of the designs by Meissonnier for "Ornements d'église, Décorations intérieures, Dessus de Portes" by Baron Edmond de Rothschild (b.1845, d.1934); by descent to his son James de Rothschild (b.1878, d.1957); bequeathed to Waddesdon, The Rothschild Collection (The National Trust) after 1957.
Exhibition History:
Theatres of Life: Drawings from the Rothschild Collection at Waddesdon Manor. Wallace Collection, London 8 November 2007 - 27 January 2008; Djanogly Art Gallery, Nottingham 12 April - 1 June 2008.
Waddesdon, The Rothschild Collection (The National Trust)

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