This rare table-fountain comprising a Chinese vase and two birds, produced by the Vincennes manufactory, richly embellished with ormolu mounts illustrates the marchand-mercier's involvement in design through creative assembly.
Thomas-Joachim Hébert (1687-1773), the celebrated marchand-mercier active in Paris during the first half of the 18th century, had two table-fountains in stock when his expanding business was inventoried in 1724; one, composed of a cylindrical red and green coloured Chinese porcelain vase mounted in gilt-bronze, was valued at 120 livres; the other was a slightly smaller version of Japanese porcelain mounted in silver.
However, the fashion for transforming exotic and expensive Chinese and European porcelain into true 'objets de luxe' reached its zenith a few decades later, in the mid-18th century through the activities of the marchand-mercier Lazare Duvaux (b. circa 1703- 1758), who probably supplied the present object. His livre-journal covering the years 1748-1758 lists several similar fountains, including a closely related example delivered to on the 29th of December 1750 to M. de Roissy:
699- Une fontaine bleue avec des oiseaux de Vincennes, garnie en bronze doré d’or moulu, 216 livres.
This fountain probably also incorporated similar bullfinch birds in Vincennes soft-paste porcelain. These birds were modelled by the newly established Vincennes manufactory, which opened in 1740, after a model by the powerful Meissen Manufactory; two birds by Vincennes of this rare design, dated circa 1749-50, are now in the Metropolitan Museum (acc. Num. 54.147.30).
A closely related fountain, with identical mounts and similar Vincennes birds, was sold at Sotheby’s London 17 May 1968 , lot 33 and is illustrated in D. Lunsingh Scheurleer, Chinesisches und japanisches Porzellan in europäischen Fassungen, 1980, fig. 167 p. 256.
Another fountain incorporating a celadon vase and Vincennes or Meissen birds was sold at Christie’s, New York, 23 April 1998, lot 116.
Table-fountains were originally conceived to dispense perfumed water, wine, coffee or tea. The present vase, surrounded by a lavish porcelain flowers, a playful allusion to the natural scent of flowers, would have had immense appeal to Parisian high-society's fascination with such novel imitations of nature.