These magnificent ormolu-mounted Chinese export tureens exemplify the passion in France for the mounting of oriental porcelain. This taste goes back to the Middle Ages but reached its zenith in the middle years of the eighteenth century, when Parisian marchands-merciers such as Lazare Duvaux and Thomas-Joachim Hebert, the principal importers of European ceramics, catered to the inexhaustible demand for mounted porcelains among fashionable collectors . The esteem and high value placed on mounted porcelain is reflected in a discussion by Dezallier d'Argenville (in the 1752 edition of his Voyage Pittoresque de Paris) of the collection of Blondel de Gagny who was celebrated above all as a picture collector:
La peinture ne fait pas le seul ornament du cabinet de M. Blondel de Gagny, on y voit avec plaisir une tres
grand quantité de porcelaines anciennes les plus
parfaites, dont les monture semblent disputer le prix avec les pièces qu'elles accompagnent.
(see F.J.B.Watson and G.Wilson, Mounted Oriental Porcelain in the J. Paul Getty Museum, Malibu, 1982, p. 11).
Mme de Pompadour was one of the most enthusiastic supporters of the taste for mounting porcelain, paying the huge sum of 3600 livres to Duvaux for four mounted vases alone on 16 October 1750. The enduring popularity of the taste is reflected in a celebrated portrait executed c.1790 of the Baron de Besenval, an ardent collector, depicted seated beside a chimneypiece displaying several examples of mounted oriental porcelain. The vases offered here are particularly rare for their use of large-scale Chinese export porcelain, in contrast to the more commonly used celadon, Imari and blue-and-white wares.