- Museum number
Milk Jug (pot à lait à trois pieds); soft-paste porcelain; moulded; applied handle and feet; decorated with 'jewelled' motifs including a band of green leaves and red dots around the neck and base; vase decorated in turquoise blue enamel with green festoons and a white finial above a fan and wing motif in turquoise and pink enamel, enclosed by scrolls in green and red below the lip; and a band of scroll and leaf ornament interrupted by a diagonal line around the central area, enclosed by a band of gold scroll and turquoise dot ornament; handle and feet moulded to resemble twigs, partly gilt, relief flower and leaf ornament above each foot gilt, gilt dentil on inner and outer rim; maker's mark.
- Production date
19thC(late) (probably decorated)
Height: 12.10 centimetres
- Curator's comments
Redecorated Sèvres milk jug
This jug purports to be one of a small number of 'jewelled' pieces, decorated with gold foil in a technique perfected by J-P. Le Guay and P. Coteau at the Sèvres factory in about 1780. It even bears the mark 2000 used by the gilder Henry-François Vincent le jeune, but this is a fake, and, though the jug itself was made at Sèvres, the decoration was applied elsewhere. A large number of such 'jewelled' fakes exist, many of which are still accepted as genuine. They are to be distinguished from the originals mainly by poor workmanship.
The jug is the largest of three sizes, in production from November 1752. Although no detailed study of the technique of 'jewelling' or applying coloured enamels on to gold foils attached to the porcelain has yet been carried out, several jewelled vases have been discussed in the literature and the dies used on the larger vases have been recently rediscovered and published by Tamara Preaud.¹ None of the motifs on this piece, which are organised in a noticeably rigid fashion, correspond with those found on vases such as reg. nos 1935,1218.1-2. Under high magnification it can be seen that gaps between gold foils have been disguised with gilding, and jewellers' rouge is visible on many of the foils. In addition, there is a 'distressed' effect visible on the glaze close to the 'jewelling'. These features are not found on genuine examples, such as 1935,1218.1-2 and 1939,0304.1.
The rather carelessly applied gilder's mark does not conform to the mark used by Vincent, employed as a gilder between 1753 and 1806, and the gold interlaced LL is not normally painted over an existing blue factory mark. For all these reasons the 'jewelling' is thought to be of nineteenth-century date.
Analysis using X-ray fluorescence carried out by the British Museum Research Laboratory² revealed that the colourless glassy material used to cause the gold to adhere to the surface of the porcelain contains 15-25 % lead oxide whereas analysis of the blue glassy substance beneath the gold foils on the 'jewelled' vase reg. no. 1935,1218.1 contains 20-30% oxide. The composition of the gold foil, however, showed no significant difference, that on the jug containing 98.7% gold, 0.9% silver and 0.4% copper, and on the vase 98.3% gold, 1.6% silver and 0.2% copper. It seems, therefore, that the later imitators of the 'jewelling' technique, whilst able to replicate fairly satisfactorily the materials used at Sèvres, could not achieve the quality of craftsmanship characteristic of the royal factory.
1. T. Préaud, Sèvres enamelled porcelain: eight dies (and a quarrel) rediscovered, ‘Burlington Magazine’, Vol. CXXVIII, no. 999, June 1986, pp. 391-7.
2. BMRL 5679, July 1988. The author is grateful to Michael Cowell and Mavis Bimson of the British Museum Research Laboratory for their assistance in establishing the nature of the gold foil decoration.
Exhibited: 1990 'Fake? The Art of Deception', London, British Museum, March-September 1990, cat. no. 229.
1) Paris, Musée des arts décoratifs, cup and saucer with similar jewelled motifs, illus. Dupont, Patrick, ‘Porcelaines françaises aux XVIIIe et XIXe siècles’, Paris, 1987, p. 112, no. 1.
2) Paris, Galerie Georges Petit, 9 March 1911, Lot 44, illus., ‘déjeuner’ from the collection of the late Baron Achille Seillière, including a jug with similar motifs on a blue ground.
3) Paris, Hôtel Drouot, 23 November 1967, Lot 97, a teapot and cover and a bowl sold from the Gilbert Lévy Collection.
4) Paris, Vandermeersch, illustrated as part of a ‘cabaret’ with tray, teapot and cover, cup and saucer, sugar bowl and cover, ‘L'Estampille’, no. 128, December 1980, p. 83 (not examined). 5) London, Victoria and Albert Museum, cup and saucer, interlaced LL above ‘2000’ in gold, inv. C. 437 & a-1921; covered cup and saucer C. 436 to b-1921.
6) USA, Baltimore, Walters Art Gallery, two cups and saucers, one with a white, one with a yellow ground, teapot and cover with a white ground, inv. 48.716, A, B; 48.693, A, B; 48.717, A, B.
7) USA, New York, Christie's, The Elizabeth Parke Firestone Collection, Part I, 21-2 March 1990, Lot 286 (teapot).
- Not on display
- Acquisition date
- Britain, Europe and Prehistory
- Registration number