Explore the Gardiner Museum's significant collection of 18th and early 19th century European porcelain.
Straddling the lid of this wall vase is a dragon-taming Chinese magician, his coat adorned with mystical symbols. He holds a golden leash and the tail of a most beguiling dragon that sports a toothy grin and long eye lashes. Underneath the lid is a pierced container that could be used for potpourri or flowers. Holes in the back of the vessel show that it was intended to be suspended on a wall or in a cabinet.
Whimsical fantasy and creative genius are the hallmarks of Du Paquier porcelain. The Gardiner Museum has one of the most important collections of early Du Paquier in North America, and this unique wall vase is among its greatest treasures. It was also the favourite object of our founder, George Gardiner.
This dish is considered to be among the most exquisite creations of the manufactory. It is an example of the miniaturist style, involving delicate stippling in enamel colours, a technique that was introduced at Du Paquier in the 1730s. If you look carefully, you can see the head of a lion hidden among the rocks...
One of the most magnificent services created at the Du Paquier manufactory was possibly a gift from the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles VI (1685–1740), to Czarina Anna Ivanovna in celebration of the alliance between their two nations during the War of the Polish Succession. Twenty-two round, oval, and octagonal tureens in two sizes and two wine coolers from this service are preserved in the Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg. A small number of pieces from the service are found outside Russia, including this one.
Although linked by common features, such as the imperial Russian armorial, each tureen is an individual work of art with different hand-painted borders and details. Because no porcelain stands for the tureens survive, it is presumed that they were made of silver or gold.
Once part of a set of three flasks, this vessel was used to serve sweet Tokay wine. It is a magnificent example of Du Paquier’s austere but sumptuous decorative strapwork (Laub- und Bandelwerk) in black and gold. The scene is of Amphitrite fleeing Neptune from an engraving of a Procession of Sea Creatures by Alessandro Temini (active 1630–50).
The porcelain manufactory at Bow, founded by 1748, produced charming ornamental birds and animals for its middle-class market. Between 1750 and 1765 it introduced thirty-three different bird models, derived from Meissen and Chelsea originals or from engravings published in George Edwards’ Natural History of Uncommon Birds (London, 1743–47). Bow was the first manufactory to use the white ash of calcined cattle bones in its porcelain, thereby lessening losses in the kiln.
The rabbit tureen, made of soft-paste porcelain, was produced in England at the Chelsea manufactory. Early Chelsea porcelain was similar to French porcelain in that its many ingredients included frit – a mixture of glassy materials that were finely ground into powder and added to the porcelain paste to give it translucency and strength.
Charles Gouyn (fl. 1735–1784), the proprietor of the St. James’s manufactory, was a jeweller, so it is not surprising that he specialized in small, exquisite trifles such as scent bottles. He also made figures, including this rare documentary piece commemorating the death of Frederick, prince of Wales, on March 31, 1751. St James’s porcelain contained a glassy frit, similar to French soft-past porcelain, but with a high lead content from flint glass.
In 1751 Nicholas Crisp (1704–1774), a London jeweller, and John Sanders (d. 1758), a delftware potter, established a porcelain manufactory in Vauxhall in South London and acquired a licence to mine soapstone. This ingredient enabled their porcelain to withstand boiling water – a great advantage for a producer of wares for hot beverages such as tea and coffee. Vauxhall lost its licence for soapstone in 1760, and the manufactory closed three years later.
Warm, scented water would have been presented in this exquisite ewer and basin to a lady for washing her hands and face. The basin is formed of interspersed water-lily leaves and flowers, while the handle of the ewer reflects its association with liquids. Both have rare pink grounds, derived from gold. The colour was very costly and was used for only a short time.
The Saint-Cloud factory was founded in 1664 with a mandate to produce both tin-glazed earthenware and Chinese-style porcelain. Because the recipe for making porcelain was unknown in Europe at the time, the Saint-Cloud potters experimented with different combinations of materials before finally settling on a paste made largely from a mixture of white clay and crushed glass. This vase is one of the earliest examples of Saint-Cloud porcelain and is decorated with a still life image derived from contemporary Chinese porcelains.
Dressed in tattered second-hand garments, street vendors sang to announce their wares or services. A 1765 inventory of a Parisian merchant, Charles Hennique, included coloured and plain Mennecy figures of merchants representing street vendors from Les Cris de Paris, a series of engravings. These beautifully modelled figures were made by an unknown sculptor.
This perfume burner is modelled after a Chinese Budai, the Daoist god of happiness and good fortune, known in France as a magot de la Chine. Small conical pastilles were placed within the celestial globe and burnt to release their aromatic fragrance through the pierced cover. Originally, the magot’s hands were on pivots and the heat would have set them in motion, wafting the aroma throughout the room.
The service is composed of two cups and saucers, a teapot, a covered sugar bowl, a creamer, two crystal decanters and cordial glasses of different sizes, a crystal funnel, four silver demitasse spoons and two tin tea caddies hidden beneath the tea cups. The set which brings together objects in different media was probably put together by a “marchand-mercier” (a luxury goods merchant). Since “Paris Porcelain” was produced in great quantities and available at lower costs, the tea service is an excellent example of the type of wares accessible to a broader middle class. In addition, the decorative scheme composed of a frieze, garlands and gilding on a white ground exemplifies the taste for neoclassical decoration of the late 18th century.
The Japanese Palace of Augustus the Strong in Dresden was intended to be the showcase of both the king’s collection of Asian porcelains and the superiority of Meissen wares. A great gallery in the palace, 170 feet (82 metres) long, was to contain all sorts of native and foreign birds and animals of pure porcelain furnished in their natural sizes and colours.
Two sculptors, Johann Gottlieb Kirchner (b.1706) and Johann Joachim Kaendler (1706–1775) worked on the project. In 1732 alone, Augustus ordered 184 different animals and 214 birds. Each was a work of extraordinary technical and artistic accomplishment. This eagle, copied directly from a Japanese porcelain original, was one of the first birds to be made for the gallery.
Frederick the Great (1712–1786) sometimes amusingly referred to himself as the “best customer” of his Royal Porcelain Manufactory in Berlin, which he had purchased in 1763. He ordered numerous services for his palaces, and the porcelain echoed the overall rococo design. This Écuelle (covered bowl for broth) was once part of a service created for Frederick’s remarkable Chinese teahouse in the gardens of the Palace of Sans Souci.
The earliest European porcelain was made in Florence between 1575 and 1587 under the patronage of Francesco I de’ Medici, grand duke of Tuscany (1541–1587). A limited number of individual soft-paste porcelain objects were made.
Porcelain was not produced again in Italy until the early eighteenth century.
The Marchese Carlo Ginori (1702–1757) began making porcelain at Doccia in Florence in 1737, assisted by two Du Paquier employees. The manufactory still operates today.
The tradition of painting in monochrome black enamel, known as Schwarzlot, was introduced on glass and faience in the mid-17th in Nuremberg, and spread to smaller centers in Bohemia and Silesia. In the early 18th century, Hausmaler artists used the same technique to paint on porcelain. Two artists are particularly associated with this type of decoration: Ignaz Preissler (b.1676) who worked in Breslau and in Krondstadt; and Ignaz Bottengruber (dates unknown), who worked in Breslau and Vienna. Several other hands are discernible and it is likely that there were a number of Hausmaler artists who used this style. Schwarzlot decoration was also done at the factory of Du Paquier in Vienna
Augsburg was home to another important Hausmaler workshop: that of Johann Auffenwerth (d. 1728) and his daughters Anna Elizabeth Wald (b. 1696) and Sabina Auffenwerth (b. 1706).
Anna Elizabeth and Sabina are the first documented female Hausmaler artists. Sabina decorated a Meissen tea service to celebrate her marriage to Isaac Heinrich Hosennestel on December 13, 1731. This milk jug is part of that service.
This scent bottle shaped as a bouquet of flowers, is also a patch box. Patches or beauty spots, came into fashion in the late 17th century. They were placed on the face, neck and chest to hide imperfections and highlight the whiteness of the skin. Called mouches (French for flies), being the size of a fly’s wing, they were made of black taffeta or velvet, and could adopt fanciful shapes such as hearts or crescents. Placing patches was an art; each position had a name evoking a range of flirtatious messages: “the passionate” near the eye,“the majestic” on the forehead, or “the discreet” below the lower lip.
Perfume had numerous uses: Neroli, made from bitter orange blossoms, scented gloves; Orris root, which smelt of violets, perfumed hair powder; burning pastilles of perfume or potpourri refreshed living spaces. Impervious porcelain was an ideal medium for tiny, exquisite perfume bottles that were often given as tokens of love or affection.