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K.P.M. BERLIN (Germany)


Hard-paste porcelain, enamels

Französische Vase Nr. 3

Circa 1836

H. 41,4 cm ; W. 23,5 cm ; D. 17,5 cm



Impressed sign : ‘P'

Incised : ‘III’

Inscriptions : Capitol zu Washington

Mark : Underglaze blue scepter 

Red printed mark : imperial KPM 



Christie’s, London, June 12, 1995, lot 300. 

Twinight Collection, New York, U.S.A.



Royal Porcelain from the Twinight Collection, 1800-1850, Berlin, Schloss Charlottenburg (2007); Vienne, Liechtenstein Museum (2007-2008),
Sèvres, Musée national de Céramique (2008), 

New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art (2008-2009).


Wittwer Samuel (dir.), Refinement and Elegance, early nineteenth century royal porcelain from 
the Twinight Collection, New York, Hirmer, 2007, cat.116, pp.361-362.

From 1832 the K.P.M. developed à vase in the shape of an amphora that in 1833 was given the name of “französische Vase”, which was to remain one of most popular vase forms throughout the nineteenth century. It was produced in eleven different graduated sizes and offered with a variety of different handles.[1] When presented as a gift by the royal house each “Münchner” vase was generally given its own individual decoration, but the “französische Vase” tended – as had the “Reden’sche Vase” in the first three decades of the century – to be produced in accordance with one basic scheme. Large areas of the surface are covered with a ground in either bleu azur or pink. It has one or two rectangular reserves with views, with the remaining area being decorated with gold arabesques. The plinth, foot, and neck are generally no less heavily gilded than the porcelain handles, which imitate gilded bronze (ormoulu). These vases were produced by the K.P.M. as a single piece, in pairs, or in sets, and were sometimes produced without a definite order. The king would acquire them during his regular visits to the manufactory and frequently used them as gifts.  


All that the small vase in the Twinight Collection has in common with this type of “französische Vase” is the composition of the decoration. Furthermore, the two reserves on a blue ground reminiscent of lapis lazuli do not show views of Berlin or Potsdam: on one side is the Capitol of Washington, and on the other an allegory showing the god of commerce, Mercury, seated on baggage under palm trees and a view of a sea filled with sailing ships (and a single steamship). 

The original drawing of the Capitol is extracted from The History and Topography of the United States, edited by John Howard Hinton (1791-1873) and dated 1834

The program for the painting appears on a hastily drawn design that has survived in the K.P.M. archives, entitled “Commerce and Shipping. 1836”. Not only this drawing but also the scene painted on the porcelain seem to have been executed by a somewhat unskilled artist. This might be thought to indicate that the painter was a Hausmaler, especially as there is no painter’s mark to guarantee that the decoration was carried out in the manufactory. However, the quality both of the ground and the depiction of the Capitol and the fact that the drawing has survived in the archive suggest that this work was done in the K.P.M.. 


The initials E. H as well as HL and N can be read on the pieces of baggage and it is conceivable that the person who ordered the piece wanted this image to be carried out by a layperson, who then sought to immortalize himself by including his initials. This piece was most certainly not a royal gift and as unfortunately only one 1836 painting order book has survived (the one covering January and February), it has not so far proved possible to identify either the ordered or recipient with certainty. It can only be guessed that the piece was commissioned by a person or organization involved with overseas trade, most likely from the circle of the “preußische Seehandlung,” a Prussian maritime commerce company which had been established in 1772 and from 1822 was also involved in overseas commerce. In addition to sailing ships, it also owned steamships at an early stage in its existence.[2]


[1] Ouvrier-Boettcher 1984, vol 2 cat. no. 16. 

[2] Exhibition catalog Berlin 1993.

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