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Elephant-Shaped Wine Dispenser

white porcelain elephant wine dispense decorated with blanket and flowers

Du Paquier Manufactory
Elephant-Shaped Wine Dispenser, ca. 1720–25
Hard-paste porcelain
9 1/8 × 18 1/4 × 6 in. (23.2 × 46.4 × 15.2 cm)
The Frick Collection; Gift from the Melinda and Paul Sullivan Collection, 2016
 

 

This is one of the most extraordinary pieces produced by the Du Paquier manufactory. It may have originally been part of an elaborate centerpiece, as was a similar piece made for Empress Anna Ivanovna, about 1740 (now in the State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg). The Hermitage dispenser stands above a rotating silver platter on which eight dancing figures hold cups ready to receive sweet Tokay wine from the elephant’s trunk. The elephant is ridden by a figure of Bacchus that can be lifted to fill the cavity with wine. Elephants were favorites of the czarina, who received one as a gift from Persian emissaries in 1736 and presented a full-size model in a festival she staged on the frozen Neva River in 1740. Although it seems that the Frick elephant was also originally painted, its current pure white surface allows the animal’s sculptural details to be clearly seen.