The Wallace Collection

The Wallace Collection, A Family Collection, A National Museum, An International Treasure House
Vase 'à tête d'éléphant', of the first size
  • Pair of Vases with Candle Holders
  • Vase 'à tête d'éléphant', of the first size
  • Manufacture de Sèvres
  • Jean-Claude Chambellan Duplessis, the Elder (1695 - 1774), Designer
    Charles-Nicolas Dodin (1734 - 1803), Painter
  • Sèvres, France
  • 1757
  • Soft-paste porcelain and gilt-bronze, painted and gilded.
  • C246, Object size: 37.6 x 27.6 cm
    C247, Object size: 37.8 x 27.8 cm
  • Factory mark: Interlaced Ls enclosing 'D' the date letter for 1757
    Factory mark: Interlaced Ls enclosing 'd' the date letter for 1757
    Painter's mark: 'K' for Charles-Nicolas Dodin
  • C246-7
  • Back State Room
Commentary
History
Images & Media
Further Reading
  • These vases are certainly among the finest examples of the unique craftsmanship and stylistic extravagance the Sèvres manufactory had reached by the mid-1750s. The model was introduced in 1756 and remained in production until the early 1760s. Due to the technical challenges and cost involved in the production, relatively few were made.
    Sèvres' chief-designer Jean-Claude Duplessis père (op. 1748-1774) took up the bottle-shaped form and scrolled plinth of an ea rlier model (see C244-45), and turned the sleek urn into a flamboyant rococo design.
    Two elephants' heads support separately fitted candle holders on the sides, emerging as flowerbuds from entwined stems. Double rows of beading, suspended from behind the elephants’ ears, loop below the trunks.
    Duplessis might have drawn the inspiration for this model from a Chinese Ming vase or a Japanese birdcage vase, copied at Meissen, with similar decoration.
    The ingenious design of the vases is rivalled by their splendid painted and gilded decoration. They show a slightly turquoise green ground and are painted in six small reserves with flowers, while larger reserves in the centre feature pairs of cherubs. Executed by Charles-Nicolas Dodin (op. 1754-1802/3), some of the figures are clearly inspired by prints after François Boucher. Most striking, however, is the naturalistic colouring of the elephants’ heads, with long eyelashes, fleshy-pink tones on the eyelids and insides of the mouths, as well as gilded hair inside the ears and wrinkles on the trunks.