Mounted vase

Chinese with French mounts

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 525

With delight one notices . . . a very large number of pieces of old porcelain of the greatest perfection, [and] the mounts that accompany the pieces seem to rival them in value.
— Antoine-Nicolas Dézallier d’Argenville, Voyage pittoresque de Paris

In eighteenth-century France, gilt bronze played important functional and decorative roles in the houses of those who could afford it. Gilt bronze was employed for andirons, furniture hardware, wall lights, candelabra, and chandeliers, and it served as an embellishment for porcelain produced both in Asia and in Europe. This large Chinese porcelain vase with unusually elaborate and sculptural gilt-bronze mounts offers a spectacular example of the transformation that can be effected by the addition of mounts. The profile of the vase is radically changed, and the profusion of curving metal shapes creates a quintessential expression of French Rococo taste.

The cost of gilt-bronze mounts was considerable, and an object of this scale would have been very expensive. Eighteenth-century auction catalogues indicate that mounted vases such as this were frequently found in aristocratic collections, and the prices they realized upon their sale demonstrate that they retained their value even after the style of their mounts had passed from the forefront of fashion. In the 1782 sale of the art collection of Louis-Marie-Augustin, duc d’Aumont, many of the lots offered were either Japanese or Chinese mounted porcelains, and a number of them were bought by Louis XVI for substantial sums.

Epigraph. Dézallier d’Argenville 1757, p. 281.

Mounted vase, Hard-paste porcelain; gilt-bronze mounts, Chinese with French mounts

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