Art/ Collection/ Collection/ Art Object

Elephant-head vase (vase à tête d'éléphant)

Factory:
Sèvres Manufactory (French, 1740–present)
Designer:
Jean-Claude Duplessis (French, ca. 1695–1774, active 1748–74)
Date:
ca. 1756–62
Culture:
French, Sèvres
Medium:
Soft-paste porcelain
Dimensions:
Height: 15 in. (38.1 cm)
Classification:
Ceramics-Porcelain
Credit Line:
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Wrightsman, 1983
Accession Number:
1983.185.9
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 529
This remarkable Sèvres porcelain elephant-head vase is one of six in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, four of which were given by Charles and Jayne Wrightsman. Presumably due to the technical challenges and cost of making these vases, relatively few were produced at Sèvres, all which date to the years around 1760; nineteen examples are known in public collections today.[1]

The mate to this vase is at Waddesdon Manor, Buckinghamshire. The decoration on the Waddesdon vase is extremely similar, though its spiraling decoration twists to the right to complement the left-twisting decoration on the Wrightsman vase. The undersides of both vases are painted with green and gold bands, presumably intended to disguise firing flaws in the base of each.
1983.185.9, its mate at Waddesdon, and two elephant-head vases in the Wallace Collection, London (C246-7) are the only four known examples of the model designated Shape A (without handles) by Savill (p. 161).

[Jeffrey H. Munger, February 2015]

[1] The Waddesdon Manor website states that twenty-four examples are known today, but the author has been able to trace only twenty-two. In addition, the site indicates that there are seven examples at Waddesdon, but only six are published in their Sèvres catalogue.

Bibliography:
Rosalind Savill, The Wallace Collection of Sèvres Porcelain, London, 1988, vol. 1, pp. 154–162.
Marking: Incised on underside: Script Lia[-] (possibly mark of répareur Liance père)
Baron Henri de Rothschild , Paris ; Mr. and Mrs. Charles Wrightsman , New York (until 1983; to MMA)
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