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Work "Royal" Vase
Department of Decorative Arts: 18th century: neoclassicism
© 1996 RMN / Martine Beck-Coppola
18th century: neoclassicism
Probably delivered as an "ornamental vase," this monumental piece was produced at the Sèvres Manufactory circa 1768-70 during a period of formal renewal. It is topped by a crown and decorated with handles in the shape of turtledoves. The painted decoration, inspired by François Boucher, is attributed to the painters Charles-Nicolas Dodin (1734-1802) and Jean-Baptiste-Etienne Genest (died 1789). This "royal" vase is characteristic of the introduction of neoclassicism at Sèvres.
An innovative shape
After 1762, new shapes appeared. Their perfect balance breaks away from the Rocaille repertory. This revolution may be explained by the activity of Etienne-Maurice Falconet, who had been in charge of the sculpture workshop since 1747 at the manufactory as a designer of models. The new vases that he perfected were inspired by the decorative vocabulary of architecture and sculpture, and were to be decisively influential. The "turtledove vase" (as it was called in the nineteenth century) or "royal vase" is made up of a projecting rectangular string-course that stands upon brackets in the shape of acanthus leaves, and from which rises an unfluted column. This sober form, of which the plaster model is conserved at the manufactory, is highlighted by decorative details such as the royal crown, which serves as a cover, and the billing turtle-doves on each side. It is entirely plausible to attribute the inspiration of these doves to those of the famous Meissen manufactory, since the Sèvres artists knew the work of their German counterparts quite well.
Cartouches inspired by François Boucher
Set against a "new blue" ground, two cartouches adorn the cylindrical body of this vase. The first shows two seated putti holding a shield with two overlapping hearts that have been pierced by an arrow. The scene takes place in a landscape through which flows a river. This cartouche may be attributed to Charles-Nicolas Dodin (1734-1803). The cupid holding a bow is taken from one of the plates of the Quatrième Livre des Groupes d'Enfants, engraved by Pierre Aveline, after François Boucher. The cupid to the right, reproduced in an engraving by Louis-Félix de La Rue, is also taken from a work by Boucher, L'Esté. Furthermore, the shield with the hearts and the arrow is also to be found on the colored cartouche of an oval bowl from 1757 and on the underside of a porcelain snuffbox from 1798, in the Wallace Collection, London.
Along the projecting string-course, four medallions are linked by gilt garlands in relief that hang from the beaks of the turtledoves. These medallions are adorned with monochrome male and female silhouettes on a brown ground, in the manner of antique cameos. The fashion of this type of ornamentation began in Sèvres circa 1768. The medallions of the vase in the Louvre are undoubtedly the work of Jean-Baptiste-Etienne Genest, head of the manufactory's painting workshop as of 1753. Similar cameos are to be found on a teapot and a goblet from 1769, conserved in the Wallace Collection, in London, as well as on a pair of vases from Waddesdon Manor.
BibliographyUn défi au goût, Musée du Louvre, Paris, Editions de la Réunion des musées nationaux, 1997, p. 94.
Cinq années d'enrichissement du patrimoine national 1975 - 1980, Paris, Grand Palais, 1980, p. 133.
Brunet M., Preaud T., Sèvres. Des origines à nos jours, Fribourg, Office du livre, 1978, p. 102 - 103.
H. 51 cm; W. 28.5 cm; D. 25 cm
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