University Collections of Art and History

Object Record

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Catalog Number 2014.20.1
Object Name Pitcher, Cream
Description Cream jug having a bulbous body, flat rim, and raised loop handle; decorated in gold with a bold palmette design on a chrome green ground.

On the underside is printed an interlaced "L" mark enclosing a fleur de lys and "Sevres" and a script "5 m 14." The script mark indicates that the green ground was applied on 5 May 1814. The gilding could have been applied several years later.

The shape of this jug is copied from a piece of ancient pottery in the collection of the Sèvres museum. The piece is probably a kyathos, or ladle, and was made in the Hellenistic period (323-30 B.C.E.) by Greek potters working in Southern Italy. In the eighteenth century ceramics like this were mistakenly thought to have been made by Etruscans.

The cup had been part of the collection that had been built by the French archaeologist and art historian Jeanne-Dominique Vivant Denon, the first director of the Louvre. His collection had been assembled while he was working at the French embassy in Naples. The collection was purchased in 1785 by Louis XVI and deposited at Sèvres, where, it was suggested, "Ces vases pourront donner de charmantes ide?es de de?coration (the vases can give charming ideas for decoration)."

Sèvres' designers were in fact charmed by the ancient ceramics, and their copies proved equally charming with the public; the director of the factory wrote to Denon that, "we have produced again and again all the little Etruscan pots you have asked us for, and if you came today you would hardly find any. Whether they be in our new green ground, which is really magnificent, or in blue, they are so pretty that they walk off the shelves."

The "new green ground" to which the director referred was formed from chromium, an element discovered in 1797 by the French chemist Louis-Nicholas Vauquelin and first used as a coloring agent at Sèvres in 1802.
Year Range from 1814
Year Range to 1824
Material Hard Paste Porcelain
Place of Origin Made at the Sevres Factory, Sevres, France
Artist Sèvres
Collection The Reeves Center
On View Reeves Center, European Ceramics Gallery