Bowl (jatte à anses relevées or jatte écuelle)

Manufactory: Sèvres Manufactory (French, 1740–present)

Modeler: Model and decoration design attributed to Jean Jacques Lagrenée (French, Paris 1739–1821 Paris)

Date: 1787–88

Culture: French, Sèvres

Medium: Hard-paste porcelain

Dimensions: Overall (confirmed): 3 × 10 × 7 1/2 in. (7.6 × 25.4 × 19.1 cm)

Classification: Ceramics-Porcelain

Credit Line: Purchase, Mrs. Sid R. Bass Gift, in honor of Mrs. Charles Wrightsman, and Anonymous Gift, 1997

Accession Number: 1997.518


Queen Marie-Antoinette’s dairy at Rambouillet, one of the last royal commissions prior to the Revolution of 1789, initiated a new archeological form of neoclassicism in France, one more reliant on actual classical prototypes than before. The furnishings and porcelain commissioned for the fairy were inspired by the “Etruscan” vases and the excavations at Pompeii and Herculaneum. The Comte d’Angiviller, Director General of the King’s Works and a keen proponent of classical art, intended to strengthen the commercial viability of the Sèvres factory by exploiting the current taste for the antique and copying ancient examples, for example, from Pierre d’Hancarville’s illustrated catalogue of Sir William Hamilton’s vase collection.[1] In order to help reform the factory’s designs, d’Angiviller appointed Jean-Jacques Lagrenée the Younger as Sèvres artistic co-director in 1785 to work with Jean-Jacques Bachelier, who had held this position since 1749. Lagrenée had studied in Rome at the French Academy from 1763 to 1768, and was well known for his neoclassical paintings and prints.[2] The precise date of the order for the Rambouillet porcelain service, which comprised sixty-five pieces, is unknown. A portion of it was delivered on May 25, 1787, possibly in anticipation of a visit by the queen; the remainder was sent May 15, 1788.[3] While 108 pieces were planned originally, the number had been reduced by the time the second delivery took place, one year later. Of the present shape, forty-eight blank examples were made, of which possibly two were decorated and ultimately delivered to the dairy.[4]

The decoration of the service, for which Lagrenée was principally responsible, followed the precepts laid out for the project by Jean-Jacques Hettlinger, inspector and co-director of the factory. In a letter of May 1785 Hettlinger recommended the use "Etruscan" decoration on antique shapes without any gilding.[5] Opaque ground colors (fonds) appear sparingly throughout the service, allowing the milky white of the pieces’ bodies to stand out instead; replacing gilding are black or puce lines, known as ornements étrusques.[6] However, the colored bands and other decoration were not based on any ancient prototypes; rather, the service’s palette––pale lilac, gray, blue, green, and yellow––is much closer to colors popularized by designers like Robert Adam for contemporary interiors.[7] As the low walls of this bowl did not permit figural decoration, it bears only ornamental motifs. Many of these––the circle of dots enclosing a larger dot, palmettes linked by arches, delicate scrollwork combined with palmettes, lampets around the foot, and use of parallel hatching––are found in the Hamilton/d’Harcanville catalogue. Dotted borders and stylized leaf sprigs, as well as upturned "Etruscan" handles, are also seen on examples from the Baron Dominique Vivant Denon collection of 525 “Etruscan” vases that the factory had received on June 6, 1786, to serve as a vast design resource for its employees.[8] The delicacy and disposition of the motifs are also related to the so-called "arabesques," part of the decorative vocabulary that Lagrenée developed from studying wall-paintings in Roman baths and that he published in his Recueil de différentes compositions frises et ornaments (1784).[9] The leaf sprig is a reduced version of a motif he used as a border around the figure of a standing woman holding an urn, made in imitation of red-figure vase painting.

The present vessel takes the form of a Greek kylix and was one of three types of small bowls designed for the dairy, all intended as stands for large drinking cups known as gobelets cornets or grands gobelets.[10] Like the majority of the service, it is made of hard-paste porcelain. Both a working drawing and a plaster model of the jatte à anses relevées (bowl with upturned handles) survive in the Sèvres archive. The shape was also called a jatte anses de cuire refendu (bowl with split-leather handles). The hard-paste records in June 1791 list an écuelle Boizot anses fendu (Boizot’s bowl with split handles), suggesting that Louis-Simon Boizot, a neoclassical sculptor in charge of modeling, was responsible for the shape.[11] Boizot, along with Lagrenée Hubert Robert (the supervising designer of the dairy) and Charles-François Bolvry (head of the hard-paste workshop), all contributed shapes for the service, most based directly on ancient prototypes.[12] The three coils on the foot of the Metropolitan’s bowl are derived from classical pottery and common to many of the forms in the Rambouillet service.

The concept of the dairy, often a component of an ornamental farm (ferme ornée) in a large picturesque garden, served as a destination in the increasingly popular aristocratic practice of garden tours. It also allowed a patroness or patron to offer rural products to visitors and to enjoy a simple, natural diet, as recommended by the philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau in Émile (1762). One aristocrat, the Duc de Croÿ, described such a light repast: “ices, fruits and all kinds of dairy products.”[13]

Two "bowls with upturned handles on a sandstone gray ground [with] only Etruscan ornament" appear on the May 25, 1787, delivery list for Rambouillet and two "bowls with upturned handles and light blue ground [with] Etruscan ornament" are found in a list of finished pieces designated for the “Second table.”[14] However, only two examples of this shape were ultimately delivered and probably correspond to the sandstone coloration. The Metropolitan’s example may have been intended for the second console at the side of the dairy, but was never used or delivered.[15]

[Jeffrey H. Munger, 2004]

[1] In 1786 the factory received copies of d’Hancarville’s volumes (Hamilton/d’Hancarville 1767–76), as well as the second volume of D’Antiquités by the Abbé de la Chaux. See Eriksen and Bellaigue 1987: 125; Selma Schwartz, “The Sèvres Porcelain Service for Marie-Antoinette’s Dairy at Rambouillet: An Exercise in Archeological Neo-Classicism,” French Porcelain Society 9 (1992): 3; and David Irwich, Neoclassicism (London, 1997): 234.

[2] Lagrenée’s brother, at the time director of the French Academy in Rome, claimed that his sibling’s appointment would give the factory “more of a taste for the Italian than it has had up to now”; see Schwartz (note 1): 5. Lagrenée’s appointment was in keeping with the policy of the travaux d’encouragement (commissions of encouragement) that featured in the art reforms initiated by d’Angiviller; see Barthélémy Jobert, “The Travaux d’encouragement: An Aspect of Official Arts Policy in France under Louis XVI,” Oxford Art Journal 10, 1 (1987): 3–14; and Schwartz (note 1): 5, 13.

[3] Selma Schwartz, "The ‘Etruscan’ Style at Sèvres: A Bowl from Marie-Antoinette’s Dairy at Rambouillet," MMA Journal 37 (2002): 262.

[4] More blanks of the bowl and cup shapes were created than were needed, indicating that the factory may have produced the remainder in hopes of commercial sales; ibid.: 264.

[5] Much of the service is decorated with human and animal forms, consistent with the dairy’s overall iconographic program of mythological themes and pastoral idylls. These are bordered by colored bands embellished with ornamental motifs and arranged in a manner characteristic of Greek pottery.

[6] Schwartz (note 3): 9.

[7] Ibid.: 263.

[8] Carolyn Young, “Marie Antoinette’s Dairy at Rambouillet,” Magazine Antiques (Oct. 2000): 551, fig. 2.

[9] In 1787 Lagrenée purchased three sets of engravings by Giovanni Ottaviani of Raphael’s decorations in the Vatican, a primary source for grotesque decoration; see Schwartz (note 1): 6, 9; and Young (note 8): 550.

[10] These were slightly flared, tall cups with two curved handles; Boizot designed the shape and Lagrenée the decoration. Only a few of the ewers and vases from the service were based directly on copies of classical prototypes, but most pieces incorporated classically inspired handles and other elements; see Schwartz (note 3): 263.

[11] Schwartz (note 1): 14.

[12] Shapes created for the dairy service appeared again on an “arabesque” service in 1797 and a number of “Etruscan” services in the 1790s; see Brunet and Préaud 1978: figs. 286–87, 289; Eriksen and Bellaigue 1987: 350; and Young (note 8): 553.

[13] “Une collation de glaces, de fruits and de toutes sortes de laiteries”; Schwartz (note 1): 2.

[14] Schwartz (note 1): 23–25, app. 2, delivery list, May 25, 1787: "jatte à anses relevées fond grès ornements étrusques seulement…jatte à anses relevées fond petit bleu ornements étrusques."

[15] Schwartz (note 3): 265.