Wednesday, 4 May 2016

The Wallace Collection London: OBJECTS Part I

I heard that one of the big bosses from a well-known French fashion house didn't want to stare at an empty plain porcelain after dining that he commissioned designers to translate some of their silk prints on the porcelain they began manufacturing.

Not as elaborate as 18th century porcelain, but well made and decorated china can certainly shift from simply functional to aesthetical.

The Wallace Collection is host to a very impressive Sèvres porcelain collection. From its inception in 1740 up to these days, Manufacture nationale de Sèvres still produces luxurious and beautifully crafted wares. 

Almost all the porcelain in The Wallace Collection were either made in Vincennes between c. 1752 and c. 1756 before the move to Sèvres. They are largely in the high Rococo style or 'late Baroque' which was more playful and witty than the characteristic style of its predecessor. 

There are far too many that caught my eye, but these ones could somehow make its way to more modest modern homes. 

A 'Calabre' teapot from 1753 was named after Pierre Calabre, a shareholder in the factory. It can hold up to 10 cups of very strong brew of cold tea which was augmented by hot water from a silver jug.

On either side is a pair of flower pots from 1758, painted by Louis-David Armand. The vase in the middle with pastoral scene, is believed to have been painted by Charles-Nicolas Dodin, circa 1767. A profusion of vases was introduced around the time to bring the garden indoors. 

I'm quite fond of tea services. It must have started when as a girl I received a plastic tea service which I used to pretend I'm an adult sipping tea with friends during a hot summer afternoon back at my grandmother's in the Philippines. If space were not an issue, tea sets would fill up my cupboards. Tea serving is the only time I get to be lady-like and pretentiously cultured.

The above tea service was painted by Andre-Vincent Vielliard. This service is believed to have been purchased by Madame de Pompadour, Louis XV's mistress, on 28 December 1759 when she visited the factory. The 4th Marquess of Hertford acquired the service in London in 1849. 

My favourite piece: a ewer and basin in rock crystal with gold mounts of a young triton wrestling with a snake-like sea monster on the handle and a small barking dog as a thumb piece on the cover, circa 1727 to 1730, by goldsmith Jean Gaillard. This rare piece is one of two surviving works of the time, with this in The Wallace Collection the only one with the basin still remaining. They were owned by Madame de Pompadour, Madame du Barry, the Duchesse de Mazarin, and Queen Marie Antoinette. 

If you're curious enough, you will see interesting finds in every corner of Hertford House. As someone who rates dual or multi-purpose pieces of furniture, I'd love to own this oak veneered work table with swivelling candelabrum. Built circa 1765 to 1770, it is likely to be an early work of Riesener who specialised in neoclassical Louis XVI style.

When I was a young girl, I would find myself reading by candlelight during frequent power cuts. It would be quaint and nostalgic to do so again, this time as an adult. I just have to make sure I'm not sitting next to my curtains and the wax doesn't drip on the carpet. 

More next time.

If you missed Part I and Part II of the posts on the rooms and galleries, please click HERE and HERE.


  1. Lovely post dear, love a piece of interior history! Xx

  2. Beautiful collection. The tea service is decorated gracefully ... Hertfort House looks interesting!

    In Turin there is a museum which exposes ancient pieces, I think you yould like ...

  3. Aaaah see I'm not a fan of tea and I've never really been a fan of porcelain pieces; I'm more of a contemporary girl, however I can appreciate a good piece of pottery and the history behind it, you just wouldn't find it in my house, although never say never - there is something about finding a home for rare pieces with a story behind them. I'm trying to think where I'd put the crystal ewer and basin in my house ha ha xx


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