The Wallace Collection

The Wallace Collection, A Family Collection, A National Museum, An International Treasure House
Vase 'à dauphin'
  • Pair of Flower Pots
  • Vase 'à dauphin'
  • Manufacture de Sèvres
  • Louis-Denis Armand The Elder, Painter
  • Sèvres, France
  • 1757
    probably 19th century (gilt-bronze stand)
  • Soft-paste porcelain, painted and gilded
  • Object size: 21.4 x 18.4 cm
  • Factory mark: Interlaced L's enclosing 'D' the date letter for 1756-1757
    Painter's mark: The crescent for Louis-Denis Armand the Elder
    Incised mark: '3'
  • C215-16
  • Back State Room
Images & Media
Further Reading
  • Although wonderfully extravagant and artful, the construction of these vases also makes them highly functional. Plants were grown in the upper, trumpet-shaped section, whose openings at the bottom would allow water to permeate, while the lower section served as a reservoir, from which water could be poured through the trellis-work piercings.
    The vases are decorated with a turquoise-blue 'bleu céleste' ground colour, which was introduced in 1753 for Louis XV’s first major dinner service from the manufactory and was also the most costly colour to be produced in the eighteenth century. The birds in landscapes were painted by Louis-Denis Armand L’Aîné (op. 1745-1788, identified by his characteristic crescent mark).
    The most striking part of the decoration, however, are probably the two elaborately sculpted and gilded dolphins on the sides. Dolphins were popular rococo motifs in general, but since medieval times they were also associated with the heir to the throne of France ('dauphin' means dolphin in French). The vase model was introduced in 1754, and might thus commemorate the birth of the dauphin’s second son (the future Louis XVI) in August of the same year.
    These two examples were probably part of a set with two matching 'vases à oreilles' and one 'cuvette à masques', which had been assembled by the famour dealer Lazare Duvaux in order to be given by Louis XV to Count Moltke of Copenhagen as part of a costly gift of Sèvres pieces in 1757. As Moltke was a close friend of Fredrick V of Denmark, the gift may have been a bid to persuade Denmark to remain neutral rather than join Russia in the Seven Years' War. It wouldn't have been the only time that Louis XV used precious Sèvres porcelain gifts to bolster his diplomatic strategy.