The Russo-Austrian Turkish War which ended 18 September 1739 with the signing of the Peace of Belgrade was enormously destructive for the Austro-Hungarian Empire and its ally Russia, and Austria was forced to return to the Ottoman Turks lands it had been ceded in 1718. In her entry for the present vases in the 2016 Munich exhibition entitled From Invention to Perfection: Masterpieces of Eighteenth-Century Decorative Art, Claudia Lehner-Jobst speculates that these vases, their finials emblematic of Victory and Peace, may well have been made in honor of the 1739 treaty - an attempt to put a positive spin on what some might describe as a political catastrophe.
If this is, indeed, the case, it will not be the first time Du Paquier porcelain was used for such a diplomatic end. A service comprised solely of tureens and covers was presented to the Russian Tsarina after the war as a thank you for supporting Austria against the Ottoman Turks. Virtually all extant examples from this service are in the musuem collections. For a detailed discussion of the use of Du Paquier porcelain by the Holy Roman Emperor as a diplomatic gift in general and the service made for Czarina Anna Ivanovna in particular, see Ghenete Zelleke, “Gifts Diplomacy and Foreign Trade: Du Paquier Porcelain Abroad - Austria and Russia”, Fired by Passion – Vienna Baroque Porcelain of Claudius Innocentius Du Paquier, Stuttgart, 2009, pp. 948-971.
THE VIENNA DU PAQUIER FACTORY
The Viennese court-official Claudius Innocentius Du Paquier began his experiments with porcelain in 1716, using the letters of François Xavier d'Entrecolles-- a French Jesuit priest living in China-- as his guide. In 1718, he received a signed "Special Privilegium" from Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI, awarding Du Paquier's Vienna factory 25 years of imperial protection. However, it wasn't until acquiring the services of two workmen from Meissen - C.C. Hunger and Böttger's kiln-master Samuel Stölzel - that he achieved any success, finally creating hard paste porcelain in 1719. As the second factory in Europe capable of such a claim, Charles VI was able to commission works in this new material as diplomatic gifts or to commemorate historic events.
Among the most expensive presents Du Paquier produced was the aforementioned service for Czarina Anna Ivanovna. Made at the height of Vienna’s first period, the pieces in it truly embody the manufactory's eclectic Baroque spirit: finials in the form of seated figures are a distinctive characteristic of Du Paquier porcelain made in the 1730s, as is the factory's archetypal bold style of laub-und-bandelwerk or strapwork. The large, delicate blooms on the exterior of each tureen are reminiscent of sugar-paste flowers and are rare, seemingly only applied to the most special of gifts, such as the wine cooler presented to dowager empress Wilhelmine Amalia by Augustus III and Maria Josepha.
The decoration on the present impressive pair of vases has close ties with the vocabulary of decorative elements on which Du Paquier has built its reputation - bright colors, the rich combination of iron-red with bright pinks and purples, molded decoration, strapwork, diaper patterns, tassels, and a general whimsical sense of design. The molded decoration of flowers spilling from cornucopiae on the present vases is not dissimilar to that on a Du Paquier bottle from the collection of Melinda and Paul Sullivan (Fired by Passion, cat. no. 129). The figures of prisoners of war relate closely to those found around the base of the monumental Pietro Tacca sculpture of Ferdinando I de Medici known as The Four Moors. Installed in Livorno in 1626, the monument was commissioned to commemorate the victories of Ferdinando I over the Ottomans - thus it was a natural inspiration for these vases a century later.