Most probably made as part of a garniture given in 1747 by August III to the Dauphin and Dauphine of France and displayed in their private chambers in the Château de Versailles.
F. J. B. Watson, "The Wrightsman Collection", 1966, vol. II, pp. 436-7, no. 246, illustrating and describing a Chinese porcelain pot-pourri bowl with a very similar Paris-made gilt bronze knop mounted directly onto the cover, in the Wrightsman Collection, Metropolitan Museum, New York. Hugo Morley-Fletcher, "Meissen Porcelain in Colour", 1971, p. 71, illustrating a Meissen vase of the same form but without the additional mounts and decorated with polychrome painted hunting scenes within a gilded cartouche, being a companion to a vase in the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden.
A very rare and important Meissen Kändler period porcelain vase marked with the blue crossed swords on the base, almost certainly modelled by Johann Joachim Kändler and further decorated with ornate Louis XV Rococo gilt bronze mounts, the vase surmounted by a pierced gilt bronze lid cast as a branch of coral supported against a conch shell with surrounding marine vegetation on a scrolled base, the porcelain vase of baluster form with Frauenkopf scroll handles featuring beautiful female heads on pink and pale blue and green painted handles, the neck and bases painted with green and black monochrome butterflies, caterpillar and insects, the main body of the vase painted in camaïeu vert according to the Grünen Watteauservice in copper-green and black monotones and buff tones featuring Watteauesque fêtes galantes, on one side a lady, a gentleman and young flower seller beside an ornate fountain, the other side with two women and a gentleman beside a large urn mounted upon a pedestal, each scene within a foliate arbour, the vase resting on a gilt bronze base with supporting mounts continuing to the base of the handles of an asymmetrical C-scrolling cartouche form
The porcelain: Meissen, date circa 1747. The gilt bronze mounts: Paris, date circa 1750
Height including the mounts 42 cm.
Ingelore Menzhausen and Jurgen Karpinski, "Alt-Meissner Porzellan in Dresden", 1988, pp. 108-109, illustrating various pieces from a Meissen Grünen Watteauservice, painted as here with monochrome scenes after Watteau in addition to polychrome painted flowers, some with fruit and floral shaped finials. And p. 112, illustrating a vase in the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden of the same form but without the additional mounts and decorated with a scene of a boar hunt against the backdrop of a town within a gilded cartouche, noting the modeller to be Johann Joachim Kändler. Peter Hughes, "The Wallace Collection Catalogue of Furniture", 1996, vol. III, pp.1361-1365, nos. 279 (F115-116), illustrating and describing a pair of Chinese porcelain pot-pourri vases, each with a very similar Paris-made gilt bronze knop supported on a circular gilt bronze platform, in the Wallace Collection, London. Robert E Röntgen, "The Book of Meissen", 2000, p. 79, pl. 129, illustrating the comparative shaped vase in the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden. Pierre Kjellberg, "Objets Montés du Moyen Âge à nos Jours", 2000, p. 91, illustrating this exact piece. Daniel Alcouffe, Anne Dion-Tenenbaum, and Gérard Mabille, "Gilt Bronzes in the Louvre", 2004, pp. 94-95, illustrating a pair of Japanese lacquer vases with gilt bronze mounts to include a finial of circa 1750 formed as a shell, a branch of coral and seaweed that is very similar to the present finial. Maureen-Cassidy-Geiger, "Fragile Diplomacy, Meissen Porcelain for European Courts ca. 1710-63", 2007, pp. 161-162, and p. 162, pl. 7-28, respectively describing and illustrating this exact piece, which they suggest was given by August III to the Dauphin and Dauphine of France in 1747.
The importance of this handsome Meissen vase not only rests upon the fact that it was almost certainly modelled by Meissen's greatest sculptor namely Johann Joachim Kändler (1706-75), that the painted decorations follow the Grünen Watteauservice or the 'Green Watteau Service', a decoration exclusive to the royal family but more significantly that it was most probably part of a garniture that was gifted by August III to Louis, son of Louis King Louis XV and his second wife Marie-Josèphe of Saxony, known as the Dauphin and Dauphine of France. Added to this, this very rare piece boasts superb Parisian-made Rococo mounts including a finial that follows a design that was reserved for only the very finest and often royal works of art.
The fact that an identical shaped vase in the porcelain collection at the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen in Dresden is noted as having been modelled by Kändler provides ample grounds for also attributing the present piece to the same preeminent modeller. Kändler is generally considered the greatest German porcelain modeller and was largely responsible for Meissen's success. Having trained as a sculptor in Dresden under B. Thomae, he joined the factory in 1731 and then worked as its chief modeller from 1733 up until his death. During this period he directed other of the factory's sculptors and also made models himself. One of his first projects was a series of large and highly naturalistic birds and animals for the Japanese Palace in Dresden. In addition to large-scale works, Kändler designed some of the factory's elaborate vases, played a role in designs for tableware, notably the Swan Service for Count Brühl and made numerous remarkable small-scale figurines. The latter included the famous Commedia dell-Arte actors as well as figures of Turks, Chinamen, shepherds, monkey musicians, pug dogs and other animals.
It was also during Kändler's directorship that Meissen was increasingly urged to make suitable works that could be sent by the royal family as diplomatic gifts to other leading figures including members of the French royal court. Maureen-Cassidy-Geiger's recent publication "Fragile Diplomacy" includes a lengthy chapter devoted to "Gifts of Meissen Porcelain to the French Court, 1728-50", written by Selma Schwartz and Jeffrey Munger. In it they present convincing evidence to support the assumption that the present vase was most probably one of a lavish five piece garniture made in 1747 for the Dauphin and Dauphine. The argument is based on a number of correspondences, the first being a letter written from the diplomat Count von Johann Adolf Loss to Count von Heinrich Brühl on 30th November 1747, in which Loss notes that "The porcelains are regarded as masterpieces of our manufacturing and they adorn the mantelpieces in the superb chambers of Monseigneur the Dauphin and Madame the Dauphine... As chance would have it, these porcelain pieces seem to have been made expressly for the aforementioned rooms whose woodwork is of a green vernis similar to the colour of the scenes painted on the vases and the clock case". The following month Maurice de Saxe reported to August III that "Monsieur and Madame la Dauphine showed me the beautiful porcelain pieces that your Majesty sent to them, and they have created quite a stir over them. I hadn't ever seen paintings in camaïeu vert."
Schwartz and Munger go on to note that "These two references indicate that the gifts included vases and a clock case [as yet the clock case has not been traced], that August's gift apparently was intended for both the dauphin and dauphine, and that the green monochrome decoration, also known as camaïeu vert, was considered novel. In addition, Loss's letter reveals that the porcelains were intended for mantelpieces in the cabinets of the dauphin and dauphine, and that August had sent significant and impressive pieces of porcelain, presumably decorated in the most current taste."
At that date the most fashionable decoration at Meissen featured 'Watteau' scenes. As here pieces were decorated with Rococo images in clear green and black monochromes and buff colours for the flesh tones. Known as the Green Watteau Service, the copper-green palette was not only novel but was also a reference to the royal colour of Saxony. The individual scenes were based on engravings after Antoine Watteau (1684-1721), Nicolas Lancret (1690-1743) and others, of which there were a number of examples in the Meissen workshops amongst its print collection which formed a useful inspiration for modellers and painters alike as well as serving as models for apprentices. Such decorations proved so popular that soon Vincennes and Capodimonte were also reproducing similarly coloured vignettes on their soft paste porcelains. Although Watteauesque scenes had been popular at Meissen since the early 1740's those executed in camaïeu vert did not appear until about 1745 as used in the decoration of a service made 1745-47 for Maria Amelia, sister of Marie-Josèphe and wife of Charles IV of Naples (later Charles of III of Spain).
While 'Green Watteau' decoration was found on a number of dinner services dating from the late 1740's up until the 1760's, it was very rarely used, as here, for the decoration of vases and other decorative objects. Schwartz and Munger continue their discussion by citing and illustrating this very piece as one of those very rare examples and then suggest that it and a pair of similar decorated vases with dolphin handles (sold at Sotheby's London, 13th November 1951, lot 130) once formed part of the same garniture and furthermore that "It is possible that these three vases, in fact, represent the surviving pieces of the garniture of vases sent to the dauphin and dauphine in late 1747. Their decoration corresponds to that described by Loss and Maurice de Saxe, and both their large scale and their novelty mark each as a chef d'oeuvre in terms of contemporary Meissen production. Of equal significance is the fact, the use of the dolphin-shaped handles would have made them especially appropriate as a gift for the dauphin." (since the word dauphin literally means dolphin). The writers also note "If these three vases were once united, it can be assumed that the garniture originally included a second vase with female-head handles, and a tall baluster-shaped vase that would have been placed in the centre. The size of the three extant vases not only would have made them compatible as components of a garniture, but also places them among the largest vases produced at Meissen in the eighteenth century."
The discussion then continues to describe a slight puzzle concerning the Dauphin and Dauphine's cabinet, where the vase would have been displayed. They note that "The cabinets cited in Loss's letter refer to the small adjoining rooms on the ground of Versailles that linked the apartment of the dauphin with that of the dauphine and represent the most private rooms of the two apartments. Loss's letter remarks on the fortuitous correspondence of the monochrome green decoration of the porcelain with the green vernis decoration of the wall panelling in the two cabinets. In the same month in which the letter was written, the dauphin and dauphine moved from their apartments on the floor above to new apartments on the ground floor. It is not clear, however, as to what exactly constituted the decoration of the dauphine's cabinet at the time of Loss's letter. While it is known from contemporary documents that the dauphin's cabinet had a green decoration in 1747, the surviving bills for the redecoration of the dauphine's cabinet indicate that the green vernis wall decoration was not completed until April 1747, a year and a half after Loss's letter was written. The painting of the green vernis could not have commenced before October 1748, when the relief carving of the boiseries was completed, so it is possible that Loss was referring to an earlier decorative scheme, also executed in green. It is more likely, however, that the porcelains were displayed only in the cabinet of the dauphin. Interestingly, a contemporary description of this room lists 'tablettes pour porcelain', probably referring to low shelving installed along the walls."
Of equal interest to their provenance and decoration is the nature of the gilt bronze mounts, which like the painted decorations reflect the epitome of the French Rococo. The top, cast with coral branches, shell and marine vegetation indeed compliments the array of insects painted above and below the fêtes galantes and reflects the current interest in natural science that was so much part of the Age of Enlightenment. As far as their style is concerned the gilt bronze top can be closely compared to the surmounting decorations for covers of Oriental porcelains in the Wrightsman and Wallace Collections (both referred to under literature). Neither Watson nor Hughes, in their catalogue entries, can attribute the mounts to a single maker though it is noted that a number of Oriental and indeed another Meissen porcelain vase as well as a lacquered piece were surmounted by very similar mounts. These include a white Meissen porcelain pot-pourri vase formerly in Lord Rothschild's collection, a vase in the Wallraf Collection, a pair of Yongzheng porcelain vases in the Frick Collection, a dark blue Kangxi porcelain vase in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and a pair of Japanese lacquer vases in the Louvre (probably from Château de Bellevue, which was sold by Madame de Pompadour to Louis XV in 1757 then by Louis XVI in 1775 to his aunts Mesdames Adélaïde, Victoire and Sophie). In the majority of cases, the bases differ slightly from the present example but follow the same sinuous Rococo lines and design.
While the mounts of the Wrightsman bowl is stamped with a C-couronné poinçon, those adorning the Wallace pair as well as the present vase do not bare any stamp. The crowned C stamp was an obligatory tax mark struck on bronzes or any alloy incorporating copper, produced or offered for re-sale between March 1745 and February 1749 and thus is a useful means of dating the respective mounts. In dating the Wallace mounts, Peter Hughes asserts that they would have been made very soon before or just after this obligatory mark was being used. Since in all probability the present vase was made in 1747 then the mounts would date to just after January 1749, when the C-couronné poinçon was no longer in use.
Of interest is the fact that the blue crossed sword mark on the base of the present vase appears to have been reserved for those pieces of Meissen that were to be exported to France as was indeed the case of the present piece which was adorned with these mounts almost immediately on their arrival in Paris - which French society considered to be the height of fashion. Certainly the vase is not only very rare, of great aesthetic beauty and as one of the largest vases made at Meissen during the eighteenth century is also associated with an extremely important royal provenance.