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Ewer from a set comprising ewer and basin: C.7-1961

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Object information

Current Location: Gallery 26 (Lower Marlay)


Ewer from a set comprising ewer and basin


Factory: Vincennes Porcelain Manufactory
Designer: Duplessis, Jean-Claude Chambellan, père


  • Ewer
  • Factory name: pot à la Romaine



Soft-paste porcelain ewer, decorated with a bleu lapis ground, and reserves painted in enamels with flying birds, surrounded by gilded flowers and foliage

Soft-paste porcelain decorated with underglaze bleu lapis ground, painting in blue, green, yellow, dark pink, red, purple, grey enamels, and gilding. The ewer stands on a domed quatrefoil foot. The body swells out above the foot and then contracts in a concave curve before flaring upwards and outwards at the front to form the lip, and up and over in a wave-like curve in the same direction on the opposite side. The handle is approximately ear-shaped with a moulded scroll at the junction with the body at the top just below the wave, and at the lower end just above the widest point. On each side there is a pear-shaped reserve painted in polychrome with two flying birds, the lower of the two holding a branch in its claws, and framed by gilded palms, flowers and foliage . Beneath the lip is an elaborate scroll and swag design in gold, and round the foot, a garland of flowers and foliage with tooled details. There are two bands of gilding round the outer edge of the foot, and just below the rim, following its contours, a single band. with a decorative motif and a garland of flowers below the lip. On the edge of the rim there is a dentilated band. The handle is white with lines of gilding down the sides and a form leaf spray at the top.
Part of a set with C.7A-1961


History note: Louis C.G. Clarke, Cambridge, by whom acquired before October 1948

Legal notes

L.C.G. Clarke Bequest, 1960

Place(s) associated

  • Vincennes ⪼ Val-de-Marne ⪼ France
  • Paris ⪼ France

Acquisition and important dates

Method of acquisition: Bequeathed (1960) by Clarke, Louis Colville Gray


18th Century, Mid#
Louis XV
1753 CE - 1754 CE


In 18th century France, ewers and basins were used in their owner's private apartments for washing their face and hands during the toilette, or for washing their hands while eating. They were not supplied as part of services for dining. This ewer known as a 'pot à la Romaine' in the factory but often referred to elsewhere as a' pot à l’eau à la Romaine, was designed by Jean-Claude Chambellan Duplessis (b. c. 1690-5; working 1748-1774) before October 1751.The ewer was made in two versions, 'uni' or plain, represented by this example, and with relief decoration described as ‘à ornements’, but the factory’s records do not always distinguish between them. The basins also differ, one having a smooth interior and the other relief moulded foliage. A plaster model for the pot à la Romaine à ornements survives at the factory but not a model for the basin. The factory's stock inventory of 1 October 1752 mentions moulds for both versions, biscuit, and glazed examples, but no decorated ewer and basin sets. The first known sale of a set, decorated with flowers, was on 15 December 1752 to M. Hébert. Dark blue underglaze grounds were being used at Vincennes by 1751, and are now usually termed bleu lapis. The very brilliant dark blue ground on this ewer and its basin may be the 'bleu antique' or 'bleu de M. Gagny' which was introduced about October 1752. However, the term lapis continued to be used in sales records. The dark blue ground was often combined with bird painting in gold or colours in reserves surrounded by lavish and delicately chased gilding which concealed the edges of the reserves, and produced a most luxurious and sophisticated effect. This ewer and its basin bear the date letter A introduced in 1753 and spanning the years 1753-1754. It might therefore have been one of three recorded sales of sets with bleu lapis grounds and polychrome bird decoration during those years. One was bought by Monsieur de Betz for 300 livres on 26 December 1753 (AMNS Vy 1, fol. 24) , another set was sold to the Parisian marchand-mercier, Lazare Duvaux, on 31 December 1753 for 220 livres (AMNS Vy 1 fol. 29), and a third was sold by to Madame la Marquise de Pompadour by Lazare Duvaux on 23 June 1754 (Livre Journal, no. 1818). His 'Livre Journal' entry does not state whether the birds were gold or coloured, but the price was the same as M. de Betz’s set which had coloured birds.

School or Style


Components of the work

Decoration composed of underglaze blue ground ( bleu lapis) enamels gold
Ewer Foot Diameter 10 cm
Ewer Height 24.3 cm
Basin Height 8 cm Width 23.7 cm
Ewer Lip To Handl Width 17.5 cm

Materials used in production

Soft-paste porcelain

Techniques used in production

Moulding : Soft-paste porcelain, moulded, decorated with an underglaze bleu lapis ground, painting in blue, green, yellow, dark pink, red, purple, grey enamels, and gilding with tooled details.

Inscription or legends present

Inscription present: very thick and smudgy

  • Text: interlaced Ls enclosing A
  • Location: On base of ewer
  • Method of creation: Underglaze in dark blue
  • Type: Factory mark

References and bibliographic entries

Identification numbers

Accession number: C.7-1961
Primary reference Number: 82524
Stable URI

Audit data

Created: Saturday 6 August 2011 Updated: Tuesday 5 January 2021 Last processed: Wednesday 13 December 2023

Associated departments & institutions

Owner or interested party: The Fitzwilliam Museum
Associated department: Applied Arts

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