Sèvres Porcelain Manufactory, Enamel Ewer, 1849

2020 004 V0003Sèvres Porcelain Manufactory, Enamel Ewer, 1849, Enamel on copper with gilt metal mount, 24 3/8 x 10 inches. Virginia A. Marten Endowment for Decorative Arts, 2020.004

Recognized as a masterpiece upon its creation, this enamel ewer represents trends that developed in response to the social and political upheaval prevalent at the time. The backlash against an increasingly industrialized society led to a nostalgia for Medieval and Renaissance workshop productions and themes.

Jacob Meyer-Heine arrived at the Sèvres Manufactory in the late 1840s to experiment with “new” forms and techniques that hearkened back to the glory days of Francis I, who reigned in France from 1515–1547. The results were successful and Meyer-Heine was hired by Sèvres to produce Renaissance Revival, Limoges-style enamel wares, such as this example.

The ewer’s decorative elements are painted in an elegant grisaille (monochromatic gray) technique on a dark blue ground highlighted with gold. The cartouches feature figures of Venus and Flora that were designed by French artist Henri-Pierre Picou (1824–1895). Reclining nudes twisting in a manner made popular by Michelangelo’s well-known figures on the tomb of Lorenzo de Medici flank the cartouches. The neck and foot of the ewer are decorated with scrolling floral motifs and Renaissance-style heads crowned with garlands.

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