Potpourri Vase and Cover

Mounted Potpourri Vase and Cover
(Vase à anses à tire-bouchon)
Royal Manufactory of Sèvres, c. 1763–70
French gilt-bronze mounts, c. 1785
Soft-paste porcelain
18 11/16 x 11 7/16 x 9 9/16 in. (47.5 x 29 x 24.3 cm)
Private collection

Location: Fragonard Room

This exquisite soft-paste potpourri vase on view in the Fragonard Room was made by the Royal Manufactory of Sèvres around 1763–70. Its gilt-bronze mounts were added later, around 1785. The vase is topped by a finial composed of a cluster of berries nestled inside an acanthus-leaf cup. The support — which incorporates goats’ heads with elaborately curved horns — recalls the Athénienne, a type of pedestal table that was fashionable during the late eighteenth century in France and was loosely based on ancient models. The pierced metal band that separates the bowl of the vase from its cover suggests that it might have been designed to hold potpourri, a fragrant mixture of dried flowers and spices that perfumed the air of aristocratic residences during the eighteenth century. With its references to classical antiquity, the vase also could have been intended to evoke an incense burner although it is unlikely it would have been used in this way. The pendant to the vase is in the collection of Queen Elizabeth II.