Sunday, September 06, 2009

09/10 Academic Decathlon French Revolution Art Selection #3 - Wine Cooler

Wine cooler, 1753, French; Vincennes, Soft-paste porcelain, H. 7 3/4 in. (19.7 cm), W. 10 1/4 in. (26 cm), Diam. 8 in. (20.3 cm), The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Vicennes porcelain factory started in 1740 in the town of Vincennes just east of Paris. Louis XV was a major shareholder in the operation initially but acquired full ownership in 1759 and it became a national factory at that time. Before the factory in France, porcelain was imported from China.

Porcelain is a beautiful white ceramic material that when fired has a glassy surface. There are two types of porcelain made from a white clay called kaolin - hard-paste and soft-paste. Soft-paste porcelain is more challenging to produce because it has a lower clay content and is more difficult to shape. The Vincennes Manufactory produced high quality products. They enjoyed royal patronage and had superior skill working with the more challenging material.

The function of the wine cooler was to keep a bottle chilled. There is a central decorative panel with gold accents on the handles and panel. The background color, a beautiful turquoise called blue céleste, was first developed the year this was made and was a color unique to the factory. The naturalistic design is typical of Rococo - flora and foliage painted in a soft pastel palette of pinks, blues and greens. The manufacturers of fine ceramics are identified by a mark (or logo) on the bottom of the piece. The wine cooler has a "double-Louis" mark that has two intertwined letter "L's" with a letter "A" and a dot at the top and bottom. These marks changed from time to time which helps historians date works to the time frame they would have been manufactured in.

Needless to say, these items were enjoyed by the aristocracy. A table service could have as many as five hundred pieces: plates, platters, serving dishes and coolers for bottles and glasses! French porcelain of the 18th century was elegant, elaborate, glitzy and highly decorative. Imagine sitting down for dinner and being surrounded by so many beautiful pieces - ooh la la!

Portrait of Louis XV of France

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