This sumptuous pair of Chinese celadon porcelain bowls and covers fitted with fine ormolu mounts are an excellent representation of the early eighteenth century tradition of mounting objects. During the first half of the 18th century, diplomatic relations between China and France intensified and the relatively inaccessbile China became even more alluring through the reverberating stories of European Jesuits returning from Asia. Their extensive knowledge of painting, mathematics, astronomy, and artillery provided them not only with a position at the Chinese Court but also a strong influence. Curiosity about the Far East created a strong taste for Chinese objets d’art that in turn influenced French artistic creations. The objects imported for the European market by the Compagnie des Indes Orientales (created by Louis XIV primarily for porcelain, but also lacquer, hardstones, fans, and fabrics) were progressively transformed, adapted, and embellished by the greatest French artists and artisans, thereby creating hybrid objects that came to symbolize the mixing of cultures.
The practice of mounting ormolu on these types of exotic objects, such as porcelain vases from China, dated back to the Middle Ages and reached its pinnacle around the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, developing a considerable market for these porcelains in Europe. In order to satisfy the growing demand for these objects in eighteenth-century Parisian society, the marchands-merciers imagined ingenious creations in ormolu, as well as silver, made to be mounted on Asian porcelain. Veritable “diffuseurs” of the best taste, the marchands-merciers became the only ones who possessed the ability to mount and sell these precious objects, most notably celadon porcelains, which was invented in China during the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period (907-960). It is characterized by a glaze that evokes the most beautiful of Chinese jades. The marchands-merciers, forbidden by the guild system from actually creating any finished product, presided over an extraordinary array of specialized artisans who produced their innovative goods which were always at the forefront of fashion, One of the most successful of the marchands-merciers was Lazare Duvaux (b. circa 1703 - d. 1758), one of the principal suppliers of mounted porcelains to Madame de Pompadour. Furthermore, Duvaux specialized in ormolu-mounted Chinese celadon-glazed porcelain, a fact now known thanks in large part to the publication of his day book by Louis Courajod (L. Courajad, Livre Journal de Lazare Duvaux, marchand-bijoutier ordinaire du Roi: 1748-1758, Paris, 1874). One of the most relevant entries from Duvaux' daybook records a pair of vases sold to Monsieur le Comte du Luc on 3 August 1751, Deux buires de porcelaine céladon, garnies en bronze doré d'or moulu, 720 l. (Ibid, no. 881). Shortly afterwards, on 6 December 1751, he sold another pair of vases to Madame la Marquise de Pompadour, Deux autres vases en hauteur de porcelain céladon ancienne, montés en forme de buire, en bronze ciselé doré d'or moulu, 1,680 l. (Ibid, no.l 967). From these entries, the fashion for such celadon-ware is apparent.