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Past Exhibition

Water Jug and Basin with Flowers and Fruit

white porcelain water jug with handle and matching basin, each with blue and gold decorations and sprays of flowers

Water Jug and Basin
Sèvres Porcelain Manufactory
French, 1776
Soft-paste porcelain with gilt metal
Jug: 7 9/16 x 5 1/4 x 4 7/8 in. (19.2 x 13.3 x 12.4 cm)
Basin: 2 13/16 x 10 5/8 x 8 3/8 in. (7.1 x 27 x 21.3 cm)
Gift of Miss Helen Clay Frick, 1934

Dressing and grooming (often done in the presence of friends and visitors) were important in the life of an eighteenth-century aristocrat, and the manufactory at Sèvres produced many accessories, often in sets, for these activities, including small boxes, jars, and brushes in different shapes and sizes. Large jugs and basins used to wash one’s hands with scent infused water were usually displayed on the dressing table during the morning ritual or in the garde-robe as precursors of the plumbed-in hand basin. At the time, clean water was a rare commodity, even for the wealthiest, and many doctors advised against bathing or even washing one’s face, fearing dangerous illness. However, the water jugs and basins made at Sèvres were always beautifully decorated, these with fruits and flowers in white reserves against a turquoise blue ground. The flowers and fruits — pink roses, mauve convolvuli, blue ranunculi, yellow anemones, pink peach, and purple plums, among others — were painted by Cyprien-Julien Hirel de Choisy (act. 1770−1800) in the style of a Flemish still-life painting.