A PAIR OF "VASES CHINOIS" OR "VASES A PIED DE GLOBE" (4E GRANDEUR) PAINTED WITH CHERUBS
Figurative painting attributed to Jean-Baptiste-Etienne GENEST
SÈVRES, France Royal Manufactory of Porcelain
Circa 1770 Soft-paste porcelain H. 33,5 cm (13 1⁄4 in.)
Sir John Cust, 3rd Baronet (1718–1770), Belton House, Grantham, Lincolnshire, England. Sir Brownlow Cust (1744-1807), Belton House, Grantham, Lincolnshire, England. John, 2nd Baron Brownlow (1779-1853), Belton House, Grantham, Lincolnshire, England. John Egerton-Cust, 2nd Earl Brownlow (1842–1867), Belton House, Grantham, Lincolnshire, England. Adelbert, 3rd (and last) Earl Brownlow (1844–1921), Belton House, Grantham, Lincolnshire, England. Adelbert Salusbury Cockayne Cust, 5th Baron Brownlow (1867–1927), Belton House, Grantham, Lincolnshire, England. Peregrine Cust, 6th Baron Brownlow (1899–1978), Belton House, Grantham, Lincolnshire, England. Sale, Christie, Manson & Wood, Londres, 14 March 1929, n° 59. Collection of Sir Robert Henry Edward Abdy (11 September 1896-17 November 1976), 5e Baronet. Collection of Madeleine Double (Marseille, 15 September 1869-Paris, 25 January 1970), madame René Félix-Vigier, vicomtesse Vigier. Sale, Palais Galliera, Paris, collection de la vicomtesse Vigier, 2-3 June 1970 Galerie Nicolier, Paris Collection Christner, Dallas Christie’s, New-York, The Christner Collection, 9 juin 1979, n° 225. Christie’s, New-York, 1st November 1993, lot 22 Collection Jean Lupu, Paris.
The present pair is of the smallest size. Each vase is decorated with an overglaze dark blue ground color and painted in a colored oval reserve on the front with a single cherub playing in a landscape. On one scene the putto is seating on a large drape and holding a crown of laurel on the left hand and a branch of laurel on the right hand. Lying on the ground are a helmet and a shield. Lying on the ground are a bow and a quiver of arrows, a tambourine and a wind instrument. On the other scene, the putto is seating on the ground next a trunk, holding on his left hand a bell (?) and on his right hand a paddle. In front of him, lying on the ground are cannon balls and an ax. The back has a white reserve of the same size and shape as that on the front, painted in polychrome with a bouquet of flowers. Both reserves are edged with a gilded frame. The blue is decorated with an elaborate gilded pattern of a spotted gold sablé ground incorporating caillouté roundels interspersed with flower-head shaped areas enclosing
a motif of a large dot encircled by a ring of smaller dots known as ‘oeil de perdrix’ (partridge's eye).
STUDY OF THE FORM: ‘Vase à pied globe’ or ‘Vase chinois’
The “vase à pied de globe” was designed by Jean-Claude Duplessis around 1768. Its name refers to the lower section that is in the form of a globe stand. The term appears in the Sèvres documents once in 1769, the same year in which the first examples of vases made in this form are known (although the shape may have been introduced the previous year). The model was made in three sizes, this pair being of the smallest size, which also seems to be the most common. A simplified version of the shape was
introduced in about 1774. A plaster model survives at the Sèvres manufactory with a similar silhouette but without the globe stand base and with Chinese heads at the sides. This plaster model is catalogued in an inventory of 1814 with the title vase chinois, however no surviving examples are known of this model with the Chinese heads. The title “vase chinois” also appears in the eighteenth-century documents; it is unclear, however, to which shape this term applies. The “vase à pied de globe” model may have been referred to by both terms in the eighteenth century and the shape was frequently described as a vase chinois from the nineteenth century. Savill records 6 other pairs of the same size, quatrième grandeur : one pair is held at Wadsworth Atheneum (painted with a blue ground and pastoral scenes), one pair is held at the Art Institute of Chicago (painted with a blue ground and pastoral scenes),
one is in the Huntington collection (painted with a turquoise blue ground and marine scenes), one pair at Boughton House (painted with a turquoise blue ground and pastoral scenes), one pair at the Wallace Collection, and one pair in the Bearsted collection, at Hupton House.
Although the figures of children are very much in the style of François Boucher, no source has been identified yet. Roth explains “It is clear that Genest, who was a canvas painter before coming to Sèvres, had no need of Boucher models and created his figures independently. Similar cherubs painted with martial attributes are found on a number of other vases of around the same date. See, for example, the front reserves pained on a “vase à glands” (cat. 92) and a “vase à laurier” (cat. 93) now The Huntington, San Marino. We find comparable scenes on vases in other collections including: a pair of “vases à boulons” at the Wallace Collection, London, and on a pair of “vases urne antique à ornaments” at the
Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford. Noting specific similarities in the painted technique on the figural scenes on a group of vases including those mentioned above, Roth attributes the figurative paintings to
Jean-Baptiste-Etienne Genest (active 1752-1789), the head of the painter's workshop and one of the most talented painters at the manufactory4. Roth bases her theory on stylistic links between the Hartord vases and two plaques – both painted by the same hand- one being held at Rosenborg Castle, Copenhaguen (n°. 23 1302). Although the plaque, offered to Christian VII king of Denmark in 1768, is not signed, we know that the figural scene depicting a military canteen was painted by Genest. Genest worked at the factory from 1752 until his death in 1789. He did not mark his pieces, because as head of the painter’s workshop he did not have to account for his production in this manner. He was also responsible for providing models for the other Sèvres painters to copy, and his own paintings were in the possession of the factory.