Mounted “Maiblümen” Vase

Mounted “Maiblümen” Vase
Porcelain: Meissen manufactory, Germany, c. 1740
Mounts: French, c. 1750
Hard-paste porcelain with colored enamel and gilded decoration, gilt bronze
16 1/8 x 12 in. (41 x 30.5 cm)
Private collection

Location: West Vestibule

This rare flower-covered Meissen vase with scenes after the painter Jean-Antoine Watteau and French gilded mounts exemplifies the cosmopolitanism of eighteenth-century decorative arts. Based on Chinese designs, the floral-covered style of the piece was introduced in 1739 by the Meissen model master Johann Joachim Käendler. The signature overlaying bed of flowers was made by individually attaching pieces to a mold and painting enamel over the paste. The blue petals and yellow-ochre centers may be forget-me-nots. 

On either side of the vase, the flowers surround reserves painted with fête champêtre scenes after a group of Watteau engravings purchased by the Meissen manufactory in 1741. Porcelain with Watteau scenes quickly became so popular, particularly in France, that by 1744 the factory employed eleven “Watteau-painters.” 

The French predilection for Meissen, often described as porcelain de Saxe by contemporaries, began in the 1720s and was largely facilitated by the marchands merciers, dealers of luxury objects. For foreign or precious objects — such as Meissen and Chinese porcelain, Oriental lacquer, papier-mâché, or petrified wood —  marchands merciers often commissioned bronze makers to fit pieces with mounts. Here, gilt-bronze c-scrolls, roses, and foliage wrap around the rim, extend into looped arms, and encase the central vase, transforming the piece into an object of display for a console table, mantelpiece, or commode. 

A pair of closely related, smaller vases is at the Henry E. Huntington Library and Art Gallery, San Marino, California.