French; Sèvres factory
(.1a–c) H. 22 1/2 in. (57.1 cm); (.2a–c) H. 22 3/16 in. (56.4 cm)
Gift of R. Thornton Wilson, in memory of Florence Ellsworth Wilson, 1956 (56.80.1a-c,.2a-c)
This form of vase was one of the most unusual and innovative of all those produced at Sèvres, which excelled in developing new shapes and styles of vases. The vase is in the shape of a fortified tower, with buttresses encircling the top of the body. Small gilt-porcelain cannons protrude from underneath the buttresses. The lids are formed as high domes with dormer windows, and a cupola at the top serves as the finial. The body is painted with unusually elaborate war trophies, each composed of various elements associated with military campaigns.
Only one other pair of this model exists and is now in the Huntington Library and Art Gallery in California. It was thought that the pair in the Metropolitan Museum was made as a specific commission or to be given as a present, perhaps by Louis XV, who owned the Sèvres factory. However, the Metropolitan's vases can be identified in the Sèvres factory's list of unsold stock in the 1770s; it is possible that the unusual design or overtly military character of the vases discouraged potential buyers.