Pair of vases

Chinese with French mounts

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 527

Chinese porcelain vases decorated with a celadon glaze enjoyed great popularity among French art collectors of the eighteenth century. Frequently they were fitted in France with gilt-bronze mounts that served to enhance the porcelain in the eyes of the potential buyer. The marchandsmerciers, who did so much to influence eighteenth-century French taste, were usually responsible for commissioning the gilt-bronze mounts, which were required to closely fit the shape of the vase. In the case of this pair of vases, the design of the mounts includes both Rococo and Neoclassical motifs, suggesting a date of manufacture between 1760 and 1770, a period of transition between the two styles. The mounts incorporate putti, floral swags, shells, and scrolling vegetation, all unrelated stylistically to the vase’s molded designs, which echo the decoration of archaic Chinese bronzes. Typically they venerate the Chinese porcelains while substantially transforming their appearance, creating a luxury object that is entirely French in taste. It is likely that this pair of vases was once owned by the great English collector William Beckford (1760–1844), who may have acquired them because of their strong association with eighteenth-century French aristocratic taste.

[Jeffrey H. Munger, 2010]

#2269. Vases (pair)

Pair of vases, Hard-paste porcelain; gilt-bronze mounts, Chinese with French mounts

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