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Black Ground

The fashion for black-ground chinoiserie scenes at Sèvres reflected the taste for oriental-inspired decoration and reached its height between 1790 and 1793. Sources of inspiration for the Sèvres artists include engravings after designs by Jean Pillement (1728–1808), Cantonese lacquer and Chinese woodcuts.

Fanciful oriental scenes were often rendered in two tones of gold and platinum. Used as a substitute for silver which tarnishes, platinum was a technical innovation introduced at Sèvres in about 1789 and was used extensively in the 1790s on black-ground vases and tableware decorated with chinoiserie scenes.

The prevailing neo-classical style is represented by the finely chased and jewel-like gilt bronze mounts which stylistically are close to those fitted to furniture in the Louis XVI style.

The colourful and light-hearted chinoiserie scenes of the déjeuner Bolvy include an oriental figure (on the tray) accompanied by his concubine, entertained by two dancing figures in exotic costumes and plumed headdresses. They recall tapestry cartoons by François Boucher.

The decoration of the cup and saucer is exceptional in terms of both its subject and the manner of execution, for which there is no known parallel at Sèvres. The Gothic-cum-Chinese scenes depicting peasants in medieval costume, nuns and a winged figure, may derive from illustrations of a contemporary novel, play or poem.


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