Du Paquier Porcelain from Vienna: The Generous Gift of Melinda and Paul Sullivan

This article is reprinted from the Fall 2016 issue of the Members’ Magazine.

photo of gray porcelain elephant statue decorated with flowers and draperies

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.

white porcelain tulip vase with purple-red decorations of town and flowersEurope had long sought to duplicate the composition and physical qualities of the ceramics it imported from China; the feat was achieved in Germany in the first decade of the eighteenth century at the Royal Meissen Manufactory, before being replicated by Du Paquier in Austria, then by Sèvres in France, and elsewhere. In 1718, Claudius Innocentius du Paquier, an agent in the Imperial Council of War at the Vienna court, was granted a twenty-five year charter by Emperor Charles VI to operate a porcelain manufactory in Vienna. Although the secret of making porcelain by combining local clays containing kaolin with ground alabaster was jealously guarded by the Meissen manufactory, du Paquier used his diplomatic connections to lure several key figures from Germany to Austria. These included Christoph Conrad Hunger, a porcelain painter; Just Friedrich Tiemann, an expert in kiln construction; and Samuel Stöltzel, the Meissen kiln master, who brought with him the formula for porcelain paste. Named for its founder, the Du Paquier manufactory produced a range of tablewares, decorative vases, and small-scale sculptures that found great popularity with the Hapsburg court and the Austrian nobility.

photo of porcelain tureen and stand decorated with colorful scenesAn early work of about 1725 testifies to the Viennese manufactory’s pride in its achievement. A tulip vase, part of a set of vessels called a garniture, features a fanciful view of Vienna and its spiritual center, St. Stephen’s Cathedral. Circling the frame of this scene is a Latin inscription that translates: “The bowls that Vienna formerly shipped here under a thousand perils of the sea, she now produces for herself.” The legend clearly signals the Du Paquier manufactory’s debt to Asian ware, which the Emperor Charles VI’s Ostend East-India Company had imported to the city since 1722.

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.

photo of tureen decorated with flowers, with handles, and figure at topAs the renown of the Du Paquier manufactory spread, commissions came from capitals throughout Europe; the emperor and members of his court also sent these prized objects as diplomatic gifts to their counterparts in foreign lands. A magnificent tureen—one of more than forty from an extensive service created in 1735 for Czarina Anna Ivanovna—illustrates porcelain’s role in cementing political and dynastic ties. In 1726, Austria and Russia signed a treaty of mutual defense against military threats from the Ottoman Empire and subsequently were allies during the War of Polish Succession (1733–35). It is likely that to strengthen this alliance, Charles VI sent Anna Ivanovna the Du Paquier service, most of which is still in the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg. The Russian imperial arms are emblazoned in the center of the tureen’s lid, beneath the finial, a gilded statuette of a cross-legged, turbaned man. These two features perfectly illustrate Du Paquier’s brilliant integration of flat, painted decoration with applied three-dimensional forms. Circling the body of the tureen is a modeled garland held in the mouths of grotesque masks, its brightly painted flowers popping from the surface. In contrast, geometrical bands of a type called Laub- und Bandelwerk accent the bottom of the tureen and the lid. This decorative motif consisting of infinite variations based on patterns of trelliswork, angled strapwork, and stylized foliage became a virtual signature of the Viennese porcelain. Painted in a distinctive palette of iron red with purple, blue, and green, the designs highlight the manufactory’s use of exuberant colors.

colorful porcelain tankard with male figurine as handleWhile sculptural forms like fish handles and seated-man finials are a hallmark of Du Paquier’s production, some works take these features to the highest level. One of the most charming is a tankard of 1735–40, the handle of which is in the shape of a cooper. Identified by the leather apron he wears under his coat, this craftsman specialized in making barrels that echo the shape of the vessel he holds. Designed to contain beer, Du Paquier tankards often had lids, but since the figure’s hands grasp the rim, it is clear that this example never had one. The lively expression of the man, the bold pattern of flowers set off by bands of Laub- und Bandelwerk, and the tankard’s exceptionally large size make it notable.

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

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