Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Europe 1600-1815, Room 3

Ecuelle ronde

Bowl and Cover
1781 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

Small low, covered bowls with matching stands like this were used for serving soups, bouillon and other similar foodstuffs in private apartments at breakfast, through the long hours of the toilette and to invalids in bed. In France such a tureen would be called an 'écuelle' and in German it was sometimes called a 'Wöchnerinnterrine' or 'maternity tureen'. However, while they certainly were used to serve restorative foods to women after childbirth, they were much more widely used by both women and men. Some (but not this one) have covers fitted with feet, enabling this part to be reversed to serve as a plate for dealing with meat or marrow bones. They were not made as part of a dinner service, but were a standard component of toilet services. Being made for personal use, they were usually finely decorated. They were made in porcelain, silver and other materials.

The Vincennes/Sèvres factory made a variety of écuelle shapes from 1752 onwards, however this tureen and cover is very unusual as it was intended to commemorate the birth of a special baby, the Dauphin, as the heir to the French throne was always called. Queen Marie-Antoinette gave birth to her first son, Louis Joseph on 22nd October 1781, and the dolphin symbol of the Dauphin can be found on the handles of both the bowl and its stand, and a royal crown, itself with four dolphins supporting the royal symbol of the fleur de lys, forms the handle of the cover. Sadly the Dauphin died aged only seven in 1789.

Geoffrey de Bellaigue (see below) has written about the range of special items made by the Sèvres factory at this time. In anticipation of the birth, in September 1781 Jean-Jacques Bachelier, the head of the painter's workshop, was asked to design allegories and symbols appropriate to the long-awaited birth of a royal heir: 'During the period 20 Nov 1781-25 March 1782 a range of cups and a few broth-basins were fired in the enamel-kiln which were painted with dolphins, fleurs-de-lis and allegorical subjects, no doubt based on Bachelier's sketches'. As well as this ecuelle, there is a cup and saucer with similar decoration in the museum's collection, number 786-1882. These rare items with their special decoration do not appear in the factory's sales records, suggesting they were extraordinary productions, possibly commissioned directly by the crown. It's conceivable that cups and saucers were presented by the King to important courtiers and diplomatic allies to celebrate the Dauphin's birth, but the ultimate consumer of the broth bowls is an interesting point of conjecture. They may well have been intended for the use of Queen Marie-Antoinette herself.

This example has the mark of François Antoine Pfeiffer, a painter who worked at Sèvres from 1771-1800. He specialised in flowers and patterns and would have been responsible for the finely painted borders of flowers and laurel swags.

Svend Eriksen & Geoffrey de Bellaigue. Sèvres Porcelain. London, Faber and Faber, 1987


object details
Categories
Object Type
Parts
This object consists of 2 parts.

  • Bowl Body
  • Bowl Cover
Materials and Techniques
Porcelain, painted in enamels and gilt
Brief Description
Porcelain bowl and cover, painted in enamels and gilt, made at Sèvres porcelain factory, France, 1781
Physical Description
Bowl and cover of soft-paste porcelain painted in enamels and gilded, the two handles of the bowl in the form of dolphins, the knop on the cover in the form of a crown surmounted by four dolphins supporting a fleur de lys. Rim hole. The borders painted in enamel colours with flowers and laurel swags intertwined with gilded scrollwork.
Dimensions
  • Bowl with lid, on stand height: 125mm
  • Diameter: 12.7cm
  • Maximum width: 17.3cm
Marks and Inscriptions
  • Interlaced 'L's in blue enamel (Maker's mark)
  • 'f' in blue enamel for Pfeiffer (Painter's mark)
  • da (incised)
Gallery Label
  • Covered bowl and stand (écuelle) 1781 This bowl is decorated with dolphins and fleurs-de-lis to commemorate the birth of the Dauphin to Queen Marie-Antoinette and King Louis XVI of France. Bowls of this type were used by women after giving birth. The elaborate painted and moulded decoration suggests the bowl was probably made for presentation to Queen Marie-Antoinette herself. France (Paris) Made at the Sèvres factory Painted by François-Antoine Pfeiffer Porcelain painted in enamels and gilded Given by Mrs Herbert Allen (Mrs Maude Louise Allen)(09/12/2015)
  • Gallery 128 Decant 2003 Decorated with dolphins and fleur-de-lys in allusion to the birth of the Dauphin.(07/06/2004)
Credit line
Given by Mrs Herbert Allen (Maude Louise Allen)
Object history
Louis Joseph, Dauphin de France was born on 22 October, 1781 and died, aged 7, 8th June 1789.



According to Savill (see below) covered bowls were for broths or soups. They were not used at the dinner table, where plate-like soup bowls were favoured, but in the bedroom or boudoir where they could be used to serve food during the lengthy toilette. Their shape evolved from a medieval wooden bowl which by the 14th century could be made of gold or silver for high status people. They were also made in faience, pewter and occasionally rock crystal. A variety of shapes were made at Sèvres and most were introduced already at Vincennes.



According to Geoffrey de Bellaigue (see below): 'During the period 20 November 1781 to 25 March 1782 a range of cups and a few broth-basins were fired in the enamel-kiln which were painted with dolphins, fleurs-de-lis and allegorical subjects, no doubt based on Bachelier's sketches. One such cup, a gobelet litron of the largest size, is illustrated in Colour Plate O. It bears the date-letters for 1781 and the mark of the artist, L.-F. Lécot. The cup is painted with a banderole bearing the legend, 'Le Voeu de la France', and the date, 22 October 1781, is inscribed at the foot of the composition. ' This cup and saucer is 786-1882.



François Antoine Pfeiffer worked at Sèvres from 1771-1800. He specialised in flowers and patterns.
Subjects depicted
Summary
Small low, covered bowls with matching stands like this were used for serving soups, bouillon and other similar foodstuffs in private apartments at breakfast, through the long hours of the toilette and to invalids in bed. In France such a tureen would be called an 'écuelle' and in German it was sometimes called a 'Wöchnerinnterrine' or 'maternity tureen'. However, while they certainly were used to serve restorative foods to women after childbirth, they were much more widely used by both women and men. Some (but not this one) have covers fitted with feet, enabling this part to be reversed to serve as a plate for dealing with meat or marrow bones. They were not made as part of a dinner service, but were a standard component of toilet services. Being made for personal use, they were usually finely decorated. They were made in porcelain, silver and other materials.



The Vincennes/Sèvres factory made a variety of écuelle shapes from 1752 onwards, however this tureen and cover is very unusual as it was intended to commemorate the birth of a special baby, the Dauphin, as the heir to the French throne was always called. Queen Marie-Antoinette gave birth to her first son, Louis Joseph on 22nd October 1781, and the dolphin symbol of the Dauphin can be found on the handles of both the bowl and its stand, and a royal crown, itself with four dolphins supporting the royal symbol of the fleur de lys, forms the handle of the cover. Sadly the Dauphin died aged only seven in 1789.



Geoffrey de Bellaigue (see below) has written about the range of special items made by the Sèvres factory at this time. In anticipation of the birth, in September 1781 Jean-Jacques Bachelier, the head of the painter's workshop, was asked to design allegories and symbols appropriate to the long-awaited birth of a royal heir: 'During the period 20 Nov 1781-25 March 1782 a range of cups and a few broth-basins were fired in the enamel-kiln which were painted with dolphins, fleurs-de-lis and allegorical subjects, no doubt based on Bachelier's sketches'. As well as this ecuelle, there is a cup and saucer with similar decoration in the museum's collection, number 786-1882. These rare items with their special decoration do not appear in the factory's sales records, suggesting they were extraordinary productions, possibly commissioned directly by the crown. It's conceivable that cups and saucers were presented by the King to important courtiers and diplomatic allies to celebrate the Dauphin's birth, but the ultimate consumer of the broth bowls is an interesting point of conjecture. They may well have been intended for the use of Queen Marie-Antoinette herself.



This example has the mark of François Antoine Pfeiffer, a painter who worked at Sèvres from 1771-1800. He specialised in flowers and patterns and would have been responsible for the finely painted borders of flowers and laurel swags.



Svend Eriksen & Geoffrey de Bellaigue. Sèvres Porcelain. London, Faber and Faber, 1987
Associated Objects
Bibliographic References
  • Rosalind Savill, The Wallace Collection: Catalogue of Sèvres Porcelain, 3 vols. London: Trustees of the Wallace Collection, 1988. See vol II, pp 642-650 for a discussion of écuellesand plateaux. See also Vol. I, 65p. for various shapes, 'à dauphin' including this ecuelle.
  • Svend Eriksen and Geoffrey de Bellaigue, Sèvres Porcelain, Vincennes and Sèvres 1740-1800 , (London: Faber and Faber, 1987), p. 135 and colour plate O
Collection
Accession Number
C.119&A-1922

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record createdJune 7, 2004
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