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Pair of two-handled vases with lid

Imperial Porcelain Manufactory, Vienna

1806 c.
Polychrome painted and gilded porcelain
h 31.3 cm
Pitti Palace Furniture no. 12184-12185


Blue shield underglaze


Stamped number “806” of the year 1806; stamped number “12” corresponding to the modeller Franz Schweiger

The two vases forming a pair were acquired together with other ornamental objects by Grand Duke Ferdinand III of Habsburg-Lorraine during his stay in Würzburg. In 1814, after his return to the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, he took them with him to the Pitti Palace, where they are still on display today.

These specimens reveal the magnificence of the Viennese Court thanks to their porcelain manufacture and well represent the characteristics of the Empire style, with clear reinterpretations of classicist taste, for example, in the small palms and lanceolate leaves realized in gold on a blue background, which only allow for a glimpse of the whiteness of porcelain, that was much exalted in the previous century.

Even in its design, this vase is influenced by some antique taste and its invention can be traced back to chief modeller Anton Grassi, who was active at the Imperial Manufacture during the era of Conrad von Sorgenthal (1784-1805). He became a master modeller in 1784 and made a study trip to Florence between 1792 and 1794, where he copied some works from the grand ducal collections, but it was in Rome and Naples where he studied antiquity.

On the other hand, with respect to decoration, these pieces display the imitation of bronze on the handles and lid knob, which is influenced by the experiments conducted in the early 19th century by factory chemist Joseph Leithner on “metallic” decorations and on new and particularly bright colour ranges, such as the blue background of these vases. The striking Natura Morta medallions with flowers painted in the centre may instead be the work of the porcelain painter and decorator Joseph Nigg, whose creations for trays, plates and vases were mainly used by the Court as gifts.

Text by
Rita Balleri
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