On the 24 July 1745 Louis XV granted the privilege to the Vincennes manufactory to produce porcelain 'in the style of Saxony, painted and gilded and depicting human figures'.1 During the reign of Augustus III at least eight significant gifts of Meissen porcelain were made to the French court and porcelain in the royal collection would have included the Meissen tea and chocolate service presented by August III in 1737 to Marie Leszczynska, wife of Louis XV, and a dessert-service given in 1747 to Louis XV. Throughout the 1730s and early 1740s the French factories of Chantilly and Saint Cloud were unable to rival Meissen, however by 1748 the situation had begun to change and Président de Lévy noted that the products of Vincennes were succeeding in taking business away from Meissen.2
This pot, which would have been used to serve a light broth or bouillon, is amongst a group of pieces made in the early years at Vincennes that were directly inspired by and intended to compete with Meissen porcelain. The period during which Vincennes sought to emulate pieces made at Meissen was short and surviving pieces of this type are rare. By the early 1750s Vincennes had begun to develop and produce porcelain pieces with the bleu lapis or bleu céleste ground colours that are more associated with the factory. For an illustration of a Meissen cream-pot from which the shape of this Vincennes pot is directly derived see Maureen Cassidy-Geiger, The Arnhold Collection of Meissen Porcelain 1710-50, London, 2008, p. 547, no. 263. An example of a pot of this form (lacking handle and cover) painted with flowers and insects is illustrated by Joanna Gwilt, Vincennes and early Sèvres Porcelain from the Belvedere Collection, London, 2014, pp. 64-65, no. 14. Another Vincennes example with three paw feet but with a slightly more straight-sided body is in the Musée national de Céramique at Sèvres and illustrated by Tamara Préaud and Antoine d'Albis, Le Porcelaine de Vincennes, Paris, 1991, p. 141, no. 85. Although it is not possible to trace the present lot in the factory records, the inventory for October 1752 lists 'trois marmittes miniatures mauvaises' at 10 livres each and two others painted with flowers at the same price.
The decoration of quayside scenes takes its inspiration from painting on Meissen or may be directly derived from etchings by Stefano Della Bella (1610-1664), an Italian draughtsman and printmaker whose work was also known at Meissen (see lot 38, for a pair of Meissen teabowls and saucers in this sale, probably based on Della Bella's engravings). An example of one of his etchings depicting similar scenes is preserved in the Sèvres archives and is illustrated by Joanna Gwilt, ibid., London, 2014, p. 94, pl. 42.1. The scene of two figures standing beside an architectural feature is also seen on a pomade pot in the Belvedere Collection, see Joanna Gwilt, ibid., London, 2014, p. 86, no. 35, where the author suggests that the design for this distinctive piece of architecture may have originated in a painting in the Louvre by Jacques de Lajoüe (1668-1761) entitled 'Portrait of the artist and family'. A seau à vere with a shipping scene within a very similar but gilt cartouche is illustrated by Antoinette Faÿ-Hallé and Tamara Préaud, Porcelaines de Vincennes, Les Origines de Sèvres, Exhibition Catalogue, Grand Palais, Paris, 1977- 1978, p. 105, no. 275.
An example of a pot and cover of the same form painted with harbour scenes was sold in these Rooms on 6 March 1995, lot 79. The cover on the present lot is contemporary to the pot and may have been matched just after the time of manufacture.
1. Joanna Gwilt, ibid., London, 2014, Chronology, p. 13.
2. See Selma Schwartz and Jeffrey Munger, 'Gifts of Meissen Porcelain to the French Court 1728-50' in Maureen Cassidy-Geiger (ed.), Fragile Diplomacy, Meissen Porcelain for European Courts ca. 1710-63, Exhibition Catalogue, Bard Graduate Center, New York, 2007, p. 141 for a discussion of the dominance of Meissen porcelain in France in the first half of the 18th century.