The present vase is from a group of equally bold designs produced at Sèvres in the late 18th century, several of which form part of a 1782 diplomatic gift from Louis XVI to the Russian court. Although unmarked, the date of 1780-1782 and the attribution of the jewelling to Philippe Parpette and the gilt-bronze mounts to Jean-Claude Thomas Duplessis is based on comparable documented examples.
The shape of the present vase is a variation on one of the first vase forms designed by the sculptor Louis-Simon Boizot shortly after his arrival at the factory in 1773, and called vase Boizot. Early examples have porcelain rams' heads (vase Boizot 'tête de bouc') or tall looped porcelain handles. This variant, produced in hard paste at the beginning of the 1780's, is practically identical in shape to two pairs, one in the Royal Collection [Geoffrey de Bellaigue, Sèvres, Porcelain from the Royal Collection, exhibition catalogue, 1979-1980, p. 41, cat. no. 28] and one in the Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore [Marcelle Brunet & Tamara Préaud, Sèvres, des origine à nos jours, Paris, 1978, colour pl. LVI], the ormolu handles as full models of goats browsing.
These mounts are clearly by Thomire, dating them from 1783 onwards, but a drawing of the shape in the factory archives is annotated: vase Cossa modele a fairese de milieu de Mr. Duplessis fils modele a fairese bouc rectifier modele a faire, which would indicate that it was produced on the instructions of Duplessis, and therefore likely to be intended to be mounted by him in gilt bronze and related to both a vase 'Boizot' and a vase 'Cossa'. Duplessis fils was the regular supplier of mounts to the Sèvres factory until his death in 1783. His wife continued for a time but was soon supplanted by her husband's assistant Pierre-Philippe Thomire.
Mentions of vases 'Cossa' are few in the factory archives: The modeller Petion made one in 1782 (Va'7) and another in 1783 (Va'8). The painter Rosset decorated two of the second size with paysages des deux côtés in September 1781 (Vj'2, 232). These are perhaps the ones fired on 3 December 1781, described as vases Cossa à têtes de bouc with decoration of fond pointillé paysages by Rosset and gilt by Prévost (Vl'1, 186).
Interestingly, a pair of Sèvres vases sold on behalf of the Marquis of Landsdowne at Sotheby's London in December 2004 had incised on the underside of one socle vase cossa and of the other pied du vase cossa; the form of said socle similar to that of the present vase. However, the vase body does not conform to either the present vase or the aforementioned drawing. This proves that, at the time of facture, there must have been a fair amount of mixing and matching of feet with bodies and covers, particularly on vases destined for mounting or vases that were one-off special commissions as opposed to completely undecorated vases à monter which follow a set design.
The pattern of jewelling found on the present vase is also found on elaborate cabinet cups of similar date. The lozenge pattern at the shoulder is seen on a presentation cup and saucer made for Cardinal François-Joachim de Pierre de Bernis (1715-1795), sold Christie's New York, 17-18 November 1999, lot 259.
Jewelled interlaced ribbons identical to those on the lower band of decoration on the present vase are found on a set of four portrait cups and saucers that formed part of the 1782 diplomatic gift, presented to the Russian grand prince and his wife who had just visited France traveling incognito as the comte and comtesse du Nord. The cups were painted with portraits of Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette, Prince Paul (Pavel Petrovich) and his wife Maria Fedorovna, the accompanying saucers painted with trophies. The first three cups and their saucers remain at Pavlovsk. The portrait cup of Maria Fedorovna lacking its saucer is now in the Musée de Montbéliaerd, France.
Factory records for June 1782 note Philippe Parpette as having been paid 48 livres each for the jewelling of two cups with portraits of the comte and comtesse du Nord, émaillées richement, and in July 1782, the same sum for the two cups and saucers with portraits of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette. This documentation supports both the dating of the present vase to 1780-1782 and the attribution of the jewelled decoration to this same hand.