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Sèvres porcelain factory

Pot-pourri gondole 1757-58

Soft-paste porcelain, graduated pink ground, gilded decoration and gilt bronze | With stand 41.3 x 35.8 x 19.4 cm (parts .a and .b together) | RCIN 36099

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  • This vase owes its name to its (generic) similarity of shape - with upward turning ends - to that of a Venetian gondola. It bears a close family resemblance to two other Sèvres models: the cuvette à masques and the pot-pourri à vaisseau and is among the most ambitious vases produced at Sèvres; of particular complexity is the pierced onion-shaped floral cover, with four circular holes intended for hyacinth bulbs. Each of the three vase shapes is based on the same composite plaster model, which is still preserved at Sèvres. The main reserves are here decorated on the front with putti in clouds, with flaming torches and other attributes of love, and on the back with a bunch of fruit and flowers; the subsidiary reserves at either end contain trophies mingled with flower garlands.

    Despite the richness of its decoration and the quality of its modelling, the vase may not have found an immediate buyer. It can probably be identified in the inventory of the contents of the manufactory's sale room dated 1 January 1774. It is not known when or by whom it was bought. By the time of its purchase by the future George IV in June 1809, it had been allied to a pair of pink-ground pot-pourri vases (vase à cartels, modèle de Hébert), which are similarly painted and are likewise dated 1757/8. This judicious and happy marriage, which has stood the test of time, may have been made by Fogg himself. A further strengthening of the bond dates from 1906, when the three pieces were fitted with elaborately chased gilt bronze bases by H.J. Hatfield & Sons (not shown here), at a cost of £76 11s. 2d.

    Somewhat surprisingly, the three pieces composing the garniture are the only authentic pink-ground Sèvres vases still in the Royal Collection. The colour evidently did not find particular favour with George IV, despite the vogue it enjoyed among fastidious connoisseurs after it was first introduced at Sèvres in the late 1750s, and notwithstanding its continued appeal in the early nineteenth century. As early as the 1750s the colour was being called in England 'rose Pompadour' in honour of Louis XV's mistress. Later, as a tribute to another of Louis XV's mistresses, it was called 'rose Du Barry', and more rarely 'rose Trianon', an allusion to the Petit Trianon built by Louis XV for Madame de Pompadour in the early 1760s.

    Pot-pourri was originally a term to describe a stew. It was only in the late seventeenth century that it acquired another connotation, when it was applied to pots and their sweet-smelling contents intended to fill a room with a fragrant perfume. Recipes were carefully studied by ladies of fashion in order to find the scent most appropriate to their particular type of beauty.

    Copies of this vase were made in the late nineteenth century by both Minton (as 'Oval Queen's vase') and Coalport, following the 1862 South Kensington exhibition.

    Catalogue entry from Royal Treasures, A Golden Jubilee Celebration, London 2002

    Bought by George IV from Robert Fogg as part of a three-piece garniture. In his bill dated 30 June 1809, they are described as ‘3 fine Sève Porcelaine Vases Rose colour painted with Cupids by Boucher’, and were priced at £189. Recorded in 1826 in the Dining Room, Basement Storey, Carlton House: ‘No.104. A boat shaped Centre Flower Vase and Cover of Seve Porcelain, in rose colour and gold pierced, the top embossed with Flowers, scrolled handles and feet, the front compartment painted in Cupids, the back in Flowers and the sides in Trophies, 14 In. high’.

  • Medium and techniques

    Soft-paste porcelain, graduated pink ground, gilded decoration and gilt bronze


    With stand 41.3 x 35.8 x 19.4 cm (parts .a and .b together)

  • Place of Production

    Sèvres [France]