REF No. 5801
Pair of Chinese export porcelain Turquoise Glaze Tureens and covers
Kangxi period circa 1720
Length: 10¼ inches; 26cm
A fine and rare pair of turquoise glazed tureens and covers modelled in shell form, the covers with shell knops, the bases supported by a sculpted foot, the interiors glazed white.
These striking tureens are glazed with a deep turquoise alkali glaze probably derived from the alkali glazes first developed for fahua style ceramics, which in turn are imitating falan or cloisonné enamels. The glaze is a high-potassia eutectic coloured with copper and tin to produce a rich satisfying pigment. It is very temperature sensitive and quite difficult to get an even colour over larger pieces so most known examples from this period are quite small. A few parrots and other small figures are known with this glaze.
In Europe this colour was known as bleu céleste. It was first developed at Meissen but then copied at Sèvres by Jean Hellot circa 1750. Porcelains of this colour were popular in France as the colour contrasted so well with the ormolu.
In France the fashion for lachinage (oriental style) developed from the late 17th century onwards and boomed in the 1740s with a vogue for Chinese porcelains elaborately mounted in ormolu, mainly celadons and some famille verte examples, but the best examples were these turquoise glazed pieces as the colour so effectively contrasts with the ormolu. This taste was driven by the influential ‘marchand-merciers’ such as Charles-François Julliot, who commented on the attraction of porcelain:
"Les porcelaines anciennes …ornent avec un ton de noblesse, aussi remarquable par la singularité des formes, que par la beauté du grenu de la pâte, le tact flou & séduisant des couleurs ce qui leur a maintenu la préférence chez ceux qui ont encore aujourd’hui le goût du vrai beau".
A small number of these tureens is known, all other examples having eighteenth century French ormolu mounts and all have lost the curved shell scroll at the end of the tureen, replaced by animal heads in ormolu (swans or lions) in most examples.
It is not clear why these tureens have avoided ormolu incarceration, though they might have once been mounted and later freed. However the survival of the fragile and vulnerable shell scroll suggests that they were never mounted.
Their bold simplicity and strong colour now appeal to a more contemporary aesthetic.
References: Verdier, Philippe, Antiques, April 1961, p369, a pair of Kangxi whelk-shaped tureens with similar knops and the same turquoise glaze, with ormolu mounts; Cohen & Cohen 2006, No 4, this pair; Sotheby’s Paris, 28 Nov 2016, lot 9, the lot notes with an extensive and useful account of such tureens.
Other examples and related porcelains:
1. Frick collection, New York: a single with mounts by Pierre Gouthière, with a swan’s head and wings.
2. Louvre, Paris:
a. a pair with very similar mounts to the Frick example, also by Gouthière, made for the Marquis de Clermont D’Amboise and entering the Louvre in 1794.
b. a single example in the Grog Carven collection, with more restrained mounts.
3. Qizilbash Collection: a trio of these tureens consisting of a pair and single with different mounts and incorporating additional turquoise glazed Chinese lions. The trio came from the collection of Baron Masham of Swinton, the single originally having been in the collection of Jean de Julienne, then with Julliot and then Henry-Camille de Beringhen (1693-1770), Marquis de Châteauneuf et d’Uxelles. The pair were in the collection of Augustin Blondel de Gagny (1695-1776). The trio, part of the Qizilbash collection, sold for €1,147,500 at Sotheby’s Paris, 28 November 2016, lot 9.
4. Other possible similar examples include:
a. a pair in the collection of Baron Guy de Rothschild collection at the Château de Ferrières
b. a pair of pots pourris listed in the collection of Renaud-César, Duc de Choiseul-Praslin (1735-91)
c. a pair listed in the Mazarin sale, 10 December 1781, lot 106, with a fretwork (forme chantornée) base.
5. A few pairs of large whelk-shaped tureens in Chinese turquoise glazed porcelain, mounted as pots pourris are also known, including a pair in the Walters Art Museum, Baltimore and another in the Grog Carven collection in the Louvre.