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The Foundling Vase

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    London, England (made)

  • Date:

    1762-1763 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Chelsea Porcelain factory (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Soft-paste porcelain, painted in underglaze blue enamels, with gilding

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    British Galleries, room 53a, case 5

Object Type
The vase was made as one of a pair, although the two were separated soon after they were completed. They were purely decorative, intended solely for display, and they may have been made as showpieces to demonstrate the scope and quality that the Chelsea factory was capable of.

Ownership & Use
In 1763 a Dr George Garnier presented the vase to London's Foundling Hospital for abandoned children, which also housed Britain's first public art gallery. Its pair (now known as the Chesterfield Vase) remained unsold until 1770. The V&A's vase remained at the Hospital until 1869, when it was sold for £1,500 to the Earl of Dudley. The Earl had already bought its companion for 'upwards of £2,000' from the Earl of Chesterfield.

Design & Designing
The vase was inspired by Sévres porcelain vases of about 1760. However, with the British and French fighting on opposite sides during the Seven Years War (1756-1763), the conflict would have prevented the Chelsea factory from obtaining actual Sévres vases to copy. Features derived from Sévres include the elaboration of the Rococo scrollwork handles, the tooled gilding, the 'mazarine' blue ground and the richly-enamelled panels. The enamelled figure subject is copied from Le Berger Recompense, an engraving after François Boucher (1703-1770).

Physical description

The Foundling Vase, soft-paste porcelain, painted in enamel colours in reserves on a Mazarine blue ground, and gilt, 60 x 29 x 24 cm. Unmarked.

Place of Origin

London, England (made)


1762-1763 (made)


Chelsea Porcelain factory (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Soft-paste porcelain, painted in underglaze blue enamels, with gilding


Height: 61 cm

Object history note

Presented in 1763 to the Foundling Hospital, London, which housed Britain's first public art gallery, by Dr George Garnier Made at the Chelsea porcelain factory, London

Descriptive line

The Foundling Vase, soft-paste porcelain, painted in enamel colours in reserves on a Mazarine blue ground, Chelsea porcelain factory, ca.1762-3

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

Baker, Malcolm and Richardson, Brenda, eds. A Grand Design : The Art of the Victoria and Albert Museum. London: V&A Publications, 1997. 431 p., ill. ISBN 1851773088.
By adding this ornate vase and its companion (cat. 144) to the Museum's collection of Chelsea porcelain, the curators of the 1960s were revising the accepted canon of English porcelain by giving prominence to a style and type that had been held in low esteem by twentieth-century collectors. The vase, one of six similarly decorated and extremely ambitious pieces to survive, was presented in 1763 to the Foundling Hospital, which housed Britain's first public art gallery. It remained there until it was bought in 1869 by the earl of Dudley, who had acquired its pair, the Chesterfield Vase (cat. 144), in the previous year. The two vases were widely exhibited in the 1850s and 1860s, when the opulence of their Rococo scrollwork embellishments, rich enamelled decoration inspired by engravings by French painter François Boucher, and lavish use of burnished gilding-all heavily influenced by Sèvres porcelain of the years around 1760-were much admired. At the sale of the earl of Dudley's collection in 1886, they failed to reach the very high reserves placed on them, and on being returned to Dudley House their whereabouts became unknown to scholars.
By the time the pair of vases reappeared on the London art market in 1963, taste had evolved and the simplicity of the earlier "triangle," "raised-anchor," and "red-anchor"-referring to the marks used by the factory between 1745 and 1758-Chelsea wares was preferred. Many in the 1960s would have embraced connoisseur Horace Walpole's much-quoted judgment on the well-known Mecklenburg-Strelitz dinner service (now at Buckingham Palace) of 1762-63-"the forms are neither new, beautiful, nor various"-to describe a great deal of "gold-anchor" period (1758-84) production. The vases clearly owe their whole inspiration to French art and design, and they were probably made as showpieces intended to demonstrate that the leading English factory could compete with those of France. Writing in 1963, one commentator condemned the "English Sèvres" of Chelsea as a "shabby provincial product."

Lit. Reitlinger, 1963, vol. II, pp. 168-9; Mallet, 1965

Hunt, Tristram & Whitfield, Victoria. Art Treasures in Manchester: 150 years on. Manchester: Philip Wilson Publishers, 2007. 57p., ill ISBN 9780901673725
Adams, Elizabeth. Chelsea Porcelain, The British Museum Press, 2001, 2nd. edition. Illustrated fig. 11.25, 160p
'Other than the garniture of Dudley vases, the most celebrated examples made at Chelsea in the Gold Anchor years must be the two known as the 'Foundling' and the 'Chesterfield' vases. The former was presented on 20 April 1763 to the institution founded by Captain Thomas Coram for the relief of destitute children by an anonymous donor, who was in fact Dr George Garnier, Apothecary-General to the Army. The pair to it was owned at one time by the Earl of Chesterield, and these two magnificent pieces are now reunited in the Victoria and Albert Museum. They are of elaborate rococo design, have ovoid bodies with flared trumpet necks and domed covers, the knops of which are formed of gilt and white scrolls. The handles also are elaborately scrolled and picked out in gilding. The vases have a mazarine-blue ground of superb quality, and in a shaped and gilt-bordered reserve on one side the 'Foundling' vase is decorated with a pastoral scene, 'Le Berger Récompensé' from an engraving by R. Gaillard after Boucher. The Chesterfiled vase shows another scene from the same source, 'Le Panier Mystérieux'. On both vases the opposite side is finely painted with exotic birds of brilliantly coloured plumage in a lobed and moulded reserve, richly gilt. The vases are each 59.7cm high, and marked with a Brown Anchor. Another pair of large vases with a mazarine-blue ground, elaborate gilding and panels decorated with scenes of the Death of Cleopatra and the Death of Harmonia and with exotic birds, which are in the British Museum were recorded as 'made in the year 1762 under the direction of Mr Sprimont'. The were presented to the Museum by an unknown donor on 15 April 1763.'

Exhibition History

A Grand Design - The Art of the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A 12/10/1999-16/01/2000)
Art Treasures in Manchester: 150 years on (Manchester Art Gallery 06/10/2007-27/01/2008)

Labels and date

British Galleries:
The ambitious vases of the Chelsea porcelain factory, made in the 1760s, with blue grounds and elaborate gilding, were inspired by those made at Sèvres, the royal French porcelain factory. The painter has copied the pastoral scene from a print by François Boucher (1703-1770) whose engravings were also used at Sèvres. [27/03/2003]


Ceramics; Vases

Collection code


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