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Caisse carrée or caisse à fleurs carrée

  • Object:

    Plant pot

  • Place of origin:

    Sèvres (made)
    Vincennes (made)

  • Date:

    c.1753-1758 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Sèvres porcelain factory (manufacturer)
    Vincennes porcelain factory (made)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Soft-paste porcelain with coloured enamel ground and tooled gilding

  • Credit Line:

    Bequeathed by John Jones

  • Museum number:

    750A-1882

  • Gallery location:

    Ceramics, Room 139, The Curtain Foundation Gallery, case U, shelf 3

The shape of this flower pot has been copied from larger square terracotta tubs, used since the time of Louis XIV for growing orange trees in the gardens of Versailles in warm weather. They would have been portable so that the delicate trees could be brought inside during the winter. These costly small-scale porcelain versions would have been planted with bulbs or other flowers, and used on the dining table as part of a table setting. They originally would have had shallow square stands to catch water draining from the holes pierced in their bases, but none of these are known to have survived today.

A drawing of the shape is recorded in the archives of the Vincennes factory in 1752, but as the earliest moulds date from 1753, the first examples probably date from that year. They seem to have been popular for about a decade, and this example (one of a pair) has typically rich decoration comprising a deep blue bleu lapis ground colour and gilded ornament. Although they do not have a date letter as part of their marks on their bases (as sometimes is the case), they must be early examples, as the blue ground has 'bled' slightly around the upper edges of the white reserves. This was seen as a defect at this time and the gilder has tried to conceal it with his marvelously ornate rococo style frames to the reserves that include shell-like forms, trailing fronds, trellises and scrolls. He has even tried to conceal a firing crack in the rim of one of the pots with a gilded tree branch reaching up from the main gilded frame to the cartouche.

Joanna Gwilt (Vincennes and Early Sèvres Porcelain in the Belvedere Collection, V & A Publishing, 2014) discusses the sources for the decoration of Vincennes porcelain in her introductory essay 'The production of Vincennes and early Sèvres soft-paste porcelain'. Her analysis of the factory's first annual inventory of 1st October 1752 reveals that there were many drawings, prints and sketches of birds in the factory's collection by various artists, including Jean-Jacques Bachelier (the factory's artistic director) and Jean-Baptiste-Etienne Genest (head of the painters' workshop). These would have been copied by the painters and gilders. Gilding at Vincennes is never flat but full of lively detail created by finely chiselling the surface and edges with pointed steel tools. This work is reminiscent of that on the raised surfaces of exquisite gold snuff boxes of the same period.

Physical description

One of a pair of plant pots, 'caisse carrée' or 'caisse à fleurs carrée' of the third size, made from soft-paste porcelain, square in form on four square feet, the upper corners with cone-shaped finial. Apart from the finials and a cartouche on each side, the surface is decorated with a bleu lapis dark blue ground and tooled gilding. The cartouches are framed by gilt scrolls, reeds, floral wreaths and smaller cartouches containing trellis ornament. The gilding in the cartouches shows birds in flight and in a landscape, baskets of flowers, trees and fountains, and trailing flowers. The edges of the pots and the finials are also gilded.

Place of Origin

Sèvres (made)
Vincennes (made)

Date

c.1753-1758 (made)

Artist/maker

Sèvres porcelain factory (manufacturer)
Vincennes porcelain factory (made)

Materials and Techniques

Soft-paste porcelain with coloured enamel ground and tooled gilding

Marks and inscriptions

f.
incised
This incised mark is recorded at Vincennes by 1747/8 until 1756/7 (see J. Gwilt references)

Dimensions

Height: 17.9 cm, Width: 12.7 cm maximum, Width: 12.7 cm

Object history note

John Jones Bequest, Cat.no. 137.

Descriptive line

Plant pot made from soft-paste porcelain, with a bleu lapis ground and gilded decoration, made by the Vincennes-Sèvres porcelain factory, France, c.1753-1758.

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Gwilt, Joanna. Vincennes and Early Sèvres Porcelain from the Belvedere Collection. London, V & A Publishing, 2013.

Labels and date

Gallery 128 Decant 2003

The tub was intended for living plants. It is known that trays were made to go underneath the tubs, but no example has been found. [07/06/2004]

Production Note

The gilding is probably by É.-H. Le Guay (information: David Peters July 1999)

Materials

Soft paste porcelain

Techniques

Glazed; Gilded; Fired

Subjects depicted

Branches; Fountains; Scroll; Bird; Flowers; Trellises; Trees; Baskets

Categories

Images Online; Porcelain; Ceramics; Containers; Gardens & Gardening; Vases

Collection

Ceramics Collection

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