A Vase 'Paris' de côté is first mentioned in factory records for 1776, along with a Vase 'Paris' de milieu, with which it was presumably intended to form a garniture (milieu = centre, côté = side). The center shape is fully documented in the Wallace Collection catalogue (see R. Savill, The Wallace Collection: Catalogue of Sèvres Porcelain, 1988, vol. 1, pp. 435-446 no. C330-2).
The present garniture is composed of the 'side' model in two of the three sizes in which it was produced (Savill, note 11). The shape takes its name from Jacques-François Paris (or Deparis). First employed at the Vincennes factory in 1746 aged eleven, he became assistant to the factory's chief designer Jean-Claude Duplessis. In 1774, he was made head of the modeller's workshop and from 1775, designed vase shapes, likely including the present model.
The mythological scenes on the present garniture are almost certainly the work of Nicolas-Pierre Pithou le jeune, recorded at the factory 1763-1767, 1769-1795, 1814-1818, and recognized, along with Nicholas Dodin, as one of its finest figure painters.
The scenes are all emblematic of Love. That on the center vase is taken from an engraving after François Lemoyne's celebrated painting Hercule et Omphale of 1724, engraved by Laurent Cars in 1728, and now in the Louvre [Fig. 2]. The two side vases are decorated with scenes adapted from engravings after a pair of paintings by François Boucher now in the museum in Chartres: Vénus désarmée par les Amours and Vénus couronnée par les Amours, both engraved by Gilles Demarteau l'aîné in 1773 (See P. Jean-Richard, L'Oeuvre gravé de François Boucher dans la Collection Edmond de Rothschild au Musée du Louvre, Paris, 1978, nos. 826 and 827) [Figs. 1 & 3].
The painting of the trophies can confidently be attributed to Charles Buteux l'aîné, active 1756-1782 and recognized as the factory's best specialist trophy painter. In the factory's artists ledgers (Vj series), he is listed as painting a number of trophies on vases, with the name of the painter of the front of the vase recorded in some cases, and in others the name of the shape of the vase. In June 1777, he was paid for '6 vases de M. Pithou' for which he painted 'attributs et guirlandes', the same year that Pithou painted a 'garniture de 3 vases Paris' with 'mignatures', or scenes with figures in landscapes. These entries almost certainly refer to the present set of vases and are the basis for the attribution of their painting to these artists. The gilding, as confirmed by the 'HP' marks on the undersides of the socles, is the work of Henry-Martin Prévost, active as a gilder 1757-1797.
In her entry for the vase 'Paris de milieu' in the Wallace Collection [C330-2], Rosalind Savill notes that Vases 'Paris' are only mentioned once in the factory's sales registers, in 1782 (with a green ground) (Savill, op. cit., p. 437), so it is difficult to identify the original owner of the present garniture. It appears as lot 1193 in the sale held in Paris in 1907 of the collection of Edouard Chappey. This was one of the largest and finest collections of eighteenth-century Sèvres porcelain ever formed, and its dispersal in 1907 took four memorable sales. See Frédéric Masson, 'La porcelaine de Sèvres, collection Chappey', Les Arts, 38, 1905, pp. 1-32, illustrated pp. 3 and 28. A typescript catalogue of the Chappey collection (in the J. Paul Getty Museum library) describes these vases as bearing the date-letter for 1775, which they do not. This error is behind a small confusion concerning the dating of this shape.
OTHER KNOWN 'VASES DE PARIS'
A. Garniture of three soft-paste lilac oeil-de-perdrix vases comprising a central vase 'Paris de milieu' and two vases 'Paris de côté', the reserves painted with pastoral scenes, 34 cm. high with socles and shorter replacement covers (Sale, Paris, Couturier Nicolay, 27 June 1990, lot 150, dated in the catalogue circa 1780).
B. Garniture of three hard-paste dark blue ground vases comprising a central vase 'Paris de milieu' and two vases vases 'Paris de côté', the reserves painted with landscapes, 40 cm. high (Sale, Paris, Ader Picard Tajan, 19 February 1988, lot 75, dated circa 1780).
C. Pair of soft-paste dark blue vases vases 'Paris de côté', the reserves painted with harbor scenes, 33 cm. high (Kress Collection, Metropolitan Museum of Art, catalogue 56 a and b, dated circa 1775).
D. Garniture of three soft-paste dark blue ground vases comprising a central vase 'Paris de milieu' and two vases 'Paris de côté', the reserves painted with marine scenes, size unknown (apparently the set painted by Morin in 1779).