The Frick Collection is pleased to announce the gift of a superb group of Du Paquier porcelain, given to the museum by Paul Sullivan and Trustee Melinda Martin Sullivan. The Sullivans generously permitted the Frick to choose fourteen examples from their extensive collection, considered to be the finest private collection of Du Paquier in the world. Made in Vienna roughly between 1720 and 1740, the objects will be on view in the Reception Hall next year. This acquisition adds a new dimension to the museum’s porcelain holdings, which have grown steadily since Henry Clay Frick’s day.
Mr. Frick focused his porcelain collecting primarily on objects produced by the Royal Porcelain Manufactory at Sèvres, the preeminent eighteenth-century French manufactory, to complement the French paintings and furniture he acquired. In 1965, his collection of Chinese porcelain was augmented by some two hundred pieces through the bequest of his son, Childs. The museum’s holdings were further extended by recent and promised gifts from Henry Arnhold of porcelain made by the Royal Meissen Manufactory outside Dresden. Now, the Sullivans’ gift of Du Paquier porcelain enhances the Frick’s already strong assemblage, which illustrates the Western fascination with Eastern models and represents the brilliant and distinctive tradition of porcelain production in Europe.
A number of Asian motifs cover a Du Paquier tureen and stand of 1730–35, a form common in both European ceramic and silver dinner services of this period. Chinese-inspired handles in the form of leaping fish enliven the vessel. Its cobalt blue underglaze decorated with gold patterns and cherry blossoms reflect color combinations influenced by Imari ware, which was imported to Europe from Japan during the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Within the fan-shaped cartouches, scenes of Chinese figures and temples have been adopted from German engravings published about 1720 in Amsterdam. The variety of sources and inventive adaptations characterize Du Paquier’s spirited production.
Among the rarest of Du Paquier’s sculptural vessels is the elephant wine dispenser, one of three known to survive (shown at the top of this post). A colorfully glazed version, in the Hermitage, is part of an elaborate centerpiece made about 1740 for Anna Ivanovna. That elephant stands above a rotating silver platter on which eight dancing figures hold cups ready to receive wine from the elephant’s trunk. The elephant is ridden by a figure of Bacchus, who can be lifted to fill the cavity with wine. The pure white surface of the Frick elephant allows the animal’s sculptural details to be clearly seen. Although it is possible that it was prepared as a spare in the event of breakage during firing, close observation reveals that the figure was once cold-painted (meaning paint was applied to the surface of the object, but it was not fired afterward). Elephants were favorites of the czarina, who received one as a gift from Persian emissaries in 1736 and who featured a full-size model in a festival she staged on the frozen Neva River in 1740.
The elephant wine service was among the last of the great works produced by the Du Paquier manufactory. By 1744, its founder was overcome with debt and was forced to sell the factory to Empress Maria Theresa. Over its three-decade history, Du Paquier produced a body of work that was inventive and often whimsical, a truly distinctive voice in the evolution of European porcelain.
On a personal note, it gives me great pleasure to see these works come to the Frick. In 1993, while I was the Eloise W. Martin Curator of European Decorative Arts and Sculpture at the Art Institute of Chicago, Melinda and her sister, Joyce Hill, offered to fund an acquisition in honor of their mother, Eloise. Several suggestions were made, one of which was a group of three exquisite pieces of Du Paquier porcelain that the department was very interested in acquiring. Melinda was smitten with these objects, and — after purchasing the group for the Art Institute — she and her husband, Paul, began to acquire their own Du Paquier works. As their collection grew, so too did their interest in the history of the manufactory and its production, which led them to underwrite the research for and publication of Fired By Passion, a definitive three-volume monograph released in 2009. To celebrate its publication, as the head of the Department of European Sculpture and Decorative Arts at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, I initiated an exhibition drawn from the Sullivans’ and the Met’s collection (Imperial Privilege: Vienna Porcelain of Du Paquier, 1718–44). We are now honored to have this exceptional selection of porcelains enter The Frick Collection thanks to the Sullivans’ extraordinary generosity.
Elephant Wine Dispenser, Du Paquier Porcelain Manufactory, Vienna, porcelain, ca. 1740. The Frick Collection, gift of the Melinda and Paul Sullivan Collection
Tulip vase, Du Paquier Porcelain Manufactory, Vienna, ca. 1725
Tureen and stand, Du Paquier Porcelain Manufactory, Vienna, 1730–35
Large round tureen from a service made for Czarina Anna Ivanovna, Du Paquier Porcelain Manufactory, Vienna, 1735
Tankard, Du Paquier Porcelain Manufactory, Vienna, 1730–35