The striking mounts of these magnificent ormolu-mounted Sèvres porcelain ewers, each with a nymph leaning on the gadrooned rocaille spout, are most closely related to a pair of vases of slightly later date in the Wallace Collection, London (illustrated in R. Savill, The Wallace Collection: Catalogue of Sèvres Porcelain, London, 1988, Vol. I, pp. 470-1, no. C 338-9). The Wallace Collection vases differ through the fact that the porcelain is decorated with a plain blue ground and through differences in the mounts such as a pierced foliate band and satyr masks to the frieze, but share the distinctive figures of the nymphs and the mounts at the base of the vase of fluting alternating with acanthus leaves. Savill (op. cit., p. 470) attributes the mounts of the Wallace Collection vases to Jean-Claude-Duplessis fils (circa 1730-83), and dates the model to circa 1782-3. The more robust neo-classicism of the mounts of the Rothschild ewers, together with the richer colour scheme of their porcelain bodies, accounts for their slightly earlier dating. The slight difference in date of the porcelain bodies and the ormolu mounts can be explained through the fact that the porcelain vases may well have been an incomplete commission and supplied with mounts slightly later, or indeed they could have been acquired for stock by one of the fashionable marchands-merciers such as Dominique Daguerre, and mounted specifically to order for a client.
The Wallace examples could be the same model as a pair in the celebrated sale of the collection at Wanstead House in 1822, described as a 'pair of Mazarin blue ewers on square plinths, with masks and handles in ormolu'. Two other pairs of the Wallace Collection model, also with plain blue ground, are in the Royal Collection (illustrated in G. de Bellaigue, Sèvres Porcelain from the Royal Collection, London, 1979, pp. 38-9, no. 25 and pp. 42-3, no. 29), while another pair, previously in the collection of Maréchal Dumont, duc d'Auerstadt, was sold Sotheby's Monaco, 17 June 1988, lot 652 (654,900 francs inc. premium).
The form of the nymph-handled ewer relates to a drawing of circa 1775-80 for a silver ewer with a mermaid handle, attributed to Robert-Joseph Auguste, in the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles (illustrated in G. Wilson, 'Acquisitions made by the Department of Decorative Arts, 1979 to mid-1980', The J. Paul Getty Museum Journal, 8, 1980, p. 13, fig. 20).
The slender neck with its distinctive moulded collar and sharp shoulders of the porcelain bodies of the Rothschild ewers links them to a Sèvres model known as the vase lézard of circa 1775-80 (illustrated in A. Troude, Choix de Modèles de la Manufacture Nationale de Porcelaines de Sèvres appartenant au Musée Céramique, n.d., fig. 112). A pair of vases of this type is illustrated in L. Faton, 'La Collection Bernard Tapie', L'Estampille/L'Objet d'Art, November-December 1994, p. 48.
JEAN-CLAUDE-THOMAS CHAMBELLAN DUPLESSIS
The son of Jean-Claude Chambellan Duplessis (circa 1695-1774), who was directeur artistique at Sèvres, Duplessis fils was made a maître fondeur en terre et sable in 1765 and published a series of engravings of vases in 1775-80. Following his father's death, he was the principal supplier of bronze mounts to the Sèvres manufactory and worked on a number of Royal commissions. He also worked on pieces exclusively in bronze, including the celebrated set of four candelabra with nymph supports supplied circa 1775 to Grimod de la Reynière, of which two are in the Dodge Collection, Detroit Institute of Arts.
CHARLES-NCOLAS DODIN (1734-1803)
Dodin was one of the most accomplished painters active at the Sèvres and Vincennes factories. First becoming a painter at Vincennes in 1754, from 1757-8 he specialised in painting coloured reserves and was probably the only artist to work directly from original paintings as well as from engravings. He painted a wide variety of subjects, ranging from hunting scenes and portraits to pastorals after Boucher and Fragonard, as well as the finely painted genre scenes on these ewers. In 1773-4 he was regarded as ' le plus habile peintre de l'atelier pour porcelaine tendre' (see R. Savill, The Wallace Collection: Catalogue of Sèvres porcelain, London, 1988, Vol.III, pp.1029-31).