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Lidded Vase

Date: 1781
Dimensions:
12 3/4 x 5 3/4 x 4 1/2 in. (32.4 x 14.6 x 11.4 cm.)
Medium: soft-paste porcelain, pink pointillé ground, polychrome enamel decoration, embossed gold foils, enameled "jeweled" decoration, gilding
Credit Line: The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. The Arabella D. Huntington Memorial Art Collection.
Marks: 27.34: Incised marks: vaze c 2me . . . n 25; the numeral 18; inscription: in black ink, 2; Duveen label C5735 / 3. 27.35: Painted marks: in pink enamel, the crossed L's of the Sèvres manufactory; the date letters, dd, for 1781; incised marks: 1780 vaze c.prmr grdr. 25. 27.36: Painted marks: in gold, the crossed L's of the Sèvres manufactory; the date letters, DD, for 1781; incised marks: 1780 vaze c 2me grdr 25; the numeral, 10. Duveen label: C5735 / 3
Inscription: 27.34: Incised marks: vaze c 2me . . . n 25; the numeral 18; inscription: in black ink, 2; Duveen label C5735 / 3. 27.35: Painted marks: in pink enamel, the crossed L's of the Sèvres manufactory; the date letters, dd, for 1781; incised marks: 1780 vaze c.prmr grdr. 25. 27.36: Painted marks: in gold, the crossed L's of the Sèvres manufactory; the date letters, DD, for 1781; incised marks: 1780 vaze c 2me grdr 25; the numeral, 10. Duveen label: C5735 / 3
Object Number: 27.36
Label Text:This garniture of three vases is an example of jeweled enameling, which was the most extravagant type of decoration produced at Sèvres during the eighteenth century. The process involved applying to the porcelain embossed gold foils enameled in translucent or opaque colors, giving the effect of jewels. This technique was employed at Sèvres chiefly between mid-1779 and 1785. "Jeweled" Sèvres porcelain vases were not produced in any great quantity, probably because they were so costly. It is clear that only the most accomplished decorators worked on such exceptional pieces. Indeed, these vases can be traced thoroughly in the eighteenth-century documents from the Sèvres archives, so the names of many of the craftspeople involved in their production are known.
The name of the vase shape is inscribed on the base of each piece, "1780 vaze c.prmr grdr" [première grandeur] on the large center vase, and "1780 vaze c 2me grdr" [deuxième grandeur] on the two smaller vases. In the nineteenth century the shape was described as "Vase C de 1780." In eighteenth-century factory documents, the shape is referred to as "vases Paris nouvelle forme," and was one of a group of neoclassical models introduced between the mid-1770s and the late 1780s and listed as vases Paris. Shapes from this group are commonly associated with the répareur and thrower Jacques-François Paris or Deparis (1735-1797); see cat. 97 for a discussion of this subject. Three drawings of the shape are preserved in the factory archives and a plaster model also survives. It has been suggested that the shape is based on an etching by Marie-Thérèse Reboul Vien in the Suite de Vases Composée dans le Gôut de l'Antique, published in Paris in 1760, after designs by Joseph Marie Vien.
The model is distinguished by its classical simplicity of form and high, flat openwork handles. All three vases are decorated with an elaborate ground decoration known as pointillé. In this case, the pink (rose) ground color has been applied to leave small white circles outlined with purple dots. In the center of each circle is a gilt dot. This decoration was sometimes referred to a fond Taillandier because Geneviève Taillandier was one of the chief decorators who specialized in this technique. Each vase is painted with a mythological scene in a colored oval reserve on the front. The back of each is painted with a landscape in a colored oval reserve of the same size as that on the front. Each reserve is edged with a wide tooled gilded band. Jeweled enameling (including a ring of orange enamel "pearls," white enamel "pearls," and groups of five green enamel strawberry leaves) forms cartouches around each reserve. The center vase also has enameled cornucopias filled with flowers at the side of each reserve. Jeweled enameling, chiefly of green and white "pearls," decorates the neck, pedestal, and lid of each vase.
Eriksen and Bellaigue trace this garniture through the factory archives from shortly after July 14, 1781, when Le Guay is recorded as having received for decoration a set of three "vases Paris nouvelle forme." They were then painted with landscapes on the back by Bouillat, decorated with a pointillé ground by Taillandier for 24 livres, and jeweled by Parpette for 300 livres. On December 20, 1781, three "vases Paris nouvelle forme" with pointillé ground, painted with miniature scenes, and jeweled were fired in the enamel kiln. The painter is listed as P.-A. Le Guay, the gilder as E.-H. Le Guay, and the jeweler as Parpette.
The figural scenes on the front of each vase are adapted from paintings by some of the most important French artists of the eighteenth century. The scene on the center vase (27.35) is based on a painting of the Three Graces by Carle van Loo (1705-1765); that on the right vase (27.34) is based on a painting of Venus by François Boucher (1703-1770); and that on the left vase (27.36) is based on a painting called The Bather by François Lemoyne (1688-1737). For a full discussion of these designs, see the essay by Jeffery Weaver in this volume.
The back reserve on the central vase (27.35) is painted with a landscape of a stream with a basket of roses and a large blue and white ceramic vase on a low pedestal in the foreground, a stone fountain in the form of two children holding a large vase in the middle ground, and a high yew hedge in the background. The back reserve on the right vase (27.34) has a stream with a large stone sculpture of a child on a short plinth in the middle ground. The back reserve on the left vase (27.36) has a stream with two doves in the middle distance and a waterfall over rocks in the background. Landscapes of similar character are on the backs of a garniture of three vases E de 1780 at the Wallace Collection dated for 1781. Savill notes that garden landscapes such as these were often described as fleurs sur terrasses, and similar scenes were painted by Pierre-Joseph Rosset (active 1753-1799), as well as by Bouilliat.
The jeweling technique at Sèvres incorporating embossed gold foils and enameling was usually done by either Parpette or Joseph Coteau (c. 1740-1812). Both had been enamellers before joining the Sèvres manufactory. Gold foils were pressed into patterns that had been engraved on steel dies. These dies were designed by Jean-Baptiste-Etienne Genest, head of the painter's workshop, under the supervision of Louis-Simon Boizot, the director of sculpture, and engraved by Jean-Pascal Le Guay, who delivered them to the manufactory beginning in June 1780. Foils of the same design as those on the Huntington garniture are found on other vases. These include a vase C de 1780 of the first size dated for 1781 with a dark blue ground and jeweling at the Walters Art Museum, Baltimore; a pair of vases C de 1780 of the second size with dark blue grounds and jeweling dated for 1781 at the British Museum, London; and the three vases E de 1780 with dark blue grounds and jeweling dated for 1781 at the Wallace Collection, London, that have the same cornucopias at the sides of the center vase as on the middle Huntington vase. The only other known garniture of jeweled vases, in addition to those at The Huntington and the Wallace Collection, is a garniture of five vases des âges with a dark blue ground dated for 1781; the three central vases from the garniture are at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, and the pair of end vases are at the Walters Art Museum.
A similar garniture of three vases was sold at Christie's (London) in 1874. It is illustrated in the sale catalogue with a line drawing showing the front of the center vase, the front of one side vase, and the back of the other side vase. The center vase has the same illustration of the three graces and one side vase has the same illustration of Venus descending into the water as on the Huntington set. The landscape scene on the third vase is not identical, but of similar character to those on the Huntington vases. It is noted that they have a dark blue ground and are richly gilt. No jeweling is mentioned. The history and whereabouts of this garniture are not known.
Marie-Antoinette is recorded as buying, in 1782, "1 Garniture de trois vases en emaux" for 3,000 livres. This could conceivably refer to the Huntington garniture, to the three vases E de 1780 at the Wallace, or to one of a few other garnitures of three vases that are listed in the factory records for 1781-1782. However, the high price of 3,000 livres indicates a set with elaborate decoration such as jeweling. The Wallace set is of a slightly larger, more elaborate shape, but has a plain blue ground; the Huntington set has the expensive pointillé ground decoration.
The Huntington garniture was in the collection of Alfred de Rothschild at the end of the nineteenth century, possibly inherited from his father Baron Lionel de Rothschild (see cat. 85). It was inherited by Lady Carnarvon, sold by her in 1925, and acquired by Leo Davis before being sold through Duveen Brothers to Henry Huntington in 1927.

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