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Vase

Date: ca. 1775
Dimensions:
13 1/2 x 9 x 9 in. (34.3 x 22.9 x 22.9 cm.)
Medium: soft-paste porcelain, overglaze turquoise-blue ground color, polychrome enamel decoration, gilding
Credit Line: The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. The Arabella D. Huntington Memorial Art Collection.
Marks: Painted marks: in blue enamel, the crossed Ls of the Sèvres manufactory; the number 3; an unidentified decorator's mark
Inscription: Painted marks: in blue enamel, the crossed Ls of the Sèvres manufactory; the number 3; an unidentified decorator's mark
Object Number: 27.71
Label Text:The distinguishing features of this ornamental, baluster-shaped vase are the floral garlands molded in high relief that surround the widest section of the vase, the sprays of lilies also molded in high relief flanking the oval medallions on both sides of the vase, and the turquoise-blue (bleu céleste) ground color. Relief work and gilding of such complexity would have been entrusted to only the best répareurs and gilders, and turquoise-blue was one of the most expensive ground colors at Sèvres. The ground color on the body of this vase was originally further embellished with gilding of a combined caillouté and vermiculé pattern, traces of which can still be seen on the surface. The two oval medallions are painted with pastoral trophies-a quaver, thyrsus, flaming torch, shepherd's crook, and vines with berries on one; and a lyre, horn, book of open sheet music, laurel wreath, and vines with flowers on the other.
The title for this vase indicates that the model was made in honor of the king, with prominent use of the lilies or fleurs-de-lys that were associated with the French royal family. Savill has fully documented the history of the shape, noting that vases "du roi" with lilies were first recorded in 1773 and that the model may have been altered following Louis XVI's accession in 1774, retaining the lilies and the title. She also suggests that the form may have been influenced by Pierre-Elisabeth de Fontanieu's Collection de vases of 1770. One of the engravings illustrated in the suite shows a vase that is close in shape to the vase du roi. Two other designs from the suite illustrate vases with similar decorative details to those found on the vase du roi: one vase with sprays of lilies flanking an oval medallion that is framed by a garland of flowers, and another vase with a similar arrangement of crossed branches on the front with a heavy floral garland encircling the middle. Although these designs were not originally intended to be made in porcelain, but rather for materials such as ivory that were turned on a lathe, it seems that the designers at Sèvres drew inspiration from a number of these prints when producing their own neoclassical shapes.
Vases of this model were made in one size in both soft- and hard-paste porcelain. A plaster model of this same shape exists at the Sèvres manufactory archives, as does a drawing showing the silhouette of the shape. The plaster model has a domed lid; nevertheless, it seems that the form may not have been intended to have a lid. None was indicated on the drawing and no surviving example has one. Neither the model nor the drawing has a square plinth, suggesting that one was added only at the time of production to provide greater stability for the vase.
An example of this same shape with an overglaze blue (beau bleu) ground overlaid with circles of gilded dots and painted in the medallions with flowers and fruit is at the Wallace Collection, London. In addition to the Huntington and Wallace examples, only a few other surviving examples are known: a pair dated 1776 in soft paste with blue grounds and trophy medallions at the Musée national de Céramique, Sèvres; a single undated vase in hard paste with a white ground and gilding at Uppark House in Sussex; and an undated pair in hard paste with a white ground, gilding, and military trophies on the market in New York.
The model appears in the sales records at Sèvres from 1775 to 1777, usually costing 600 livres, with one example for 720 livres. Louis XVI purchased a vase "du Roy" for 720 livres in 1775 (possibly with a pair of vases ferrés). This may refer to the vase du roi now at The Huntington, as it is the only known surviving example with the more expensive turquoise-blue ground color.


In Collection(s)