Rosalind Savill, The Wallace Collection: Catalogue of Sèvres Porcelain, 3 vols. London: Trustees of the Wallace Collection, 1988. For a discussion of the vase solaire model and a pair of the first (largest) size with a blue ground and similar heads en grisaille, alternating with polychrome flowers, see vol. 1, C323-4, pp. 409-411
Geoffrey de Bellaigue. French Porcelain in the Collection of Her Majesty the Queen, Royal Collection Publications, 2009, 3 vols. For a pair of vase solaires of the 2nd size with a blue ground and putti en grisaille, see catalogue no. 88, pp.384-387
Marcelle Brunet and Tamara Préaud. Sèvres des origines à nos jours, Office du Livre, 1978, catalogue no. 196, p. 189 for one of the Wallace Collection pair and a discussion of the model.
William King, Catalogue of the Jones Collection, II, Ceramics, ormolu, goldsmiths' work, enamels, sculpture, tapestry, books, and prints (London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 1924), p. 11, no. 131, one illustrated plate 5.
Vase and cover in soft paste porcelain, decorated with a green ground, painted in enamels and gilt, Sèvres porcelain factory, France, 1772 (one of a pair with 805A-1882)
Height: 10 ⅞ in, Diameter: 3 ⅞ in
Ceramics Study Galleries, Britain & Europe, room 139
According to Geoffrey de Bellaigue (see below) the first mention of this shape in the Sèvres archives is dated December 1772, and lists a pair of the 3rd size painted with a green ground which were bought by Madame Adélaïde, one of Louis XV's daughters, for 432 livres. This probably refers to 805 and 805A-1882 as they are the only pair in green (or in any colour) known in this size. Marie-Adélaïde de Bourbon (1732-1800) was the fourth daughter of Louis XV and one of Louis XVI's aunts.
Marcelle Brunet (see below) first noted the connection to Mme. Adélaïde and also commented that the concept of four linked medallions is similar to that of the vase ferré, first introduced c. 1761-2 whose design has been attributed to Etienne-Maurice Falconnet, director of sculpture at Sèvres from 1757-66. Both the vase solaire and the vase ferré present four framed 'canvases' for decoration 360 degrees around the vase.
The vase solaire has a more elegant and simple feel than the vase ferré however, in keeping with a more pared down neo-classicism of the 1770s. Both designs take their inspiration from classical models, possibly via armour or other metalwork.
Vase in soft paste porcelain of urn shape on a pedestal foot, the body divided into four segments by cabled flutes, four framed roundels with tabs at the sides are joined by rings over the cabled fluting, the domed cover has flutes containing husks, decorated with a green ground, the centre of the roundels painted in enamels with alternating male and female antique style heads en grisaille looking to the left framed by a gilded chain motif.
The other known examples of this model, a pair in the Wallace Collection and a pair in the Royal Collection are also dated 1772.
This Sèvres porcelain vase and its pair were bought by the sister of King Louis XV of France, Madame Adélaïde, in 1772. It is extraordinary to imagine them in the sumptuous Palace of Versailles in the apartments the French princess shared with her other unmarried sisters, perhaps reflected in a mirror behind a pier table or on a maneltpiece. In the Sèvres factory archives today the original ledger recording her purchase survives, revealing she paid 420 livres for them in December 1772. She was a good customer of the factory and even had a vase shape named after her (perhaps because she commissioned it), a pair of which can be seen at Harewood House in West Yorkshire today. An inkstand with her initials and her father's portrait is in the Wallace Collection and was probably a gift from Louis XV to his favorite daughter in 1756.
The vases are in the elegant, but rather austere, neo-classical style which is characterised by simple shapes and bold motifs taken from classical architecture and decorative art. The male and female heads in the medallions are painted 'en grisaille', as the grey tones imitate carved marble reliefs found on roundels on ancient Roman buildings or tombs. Only three pairs of this model appear to have been made, suggesting it did not find favour with most aristocratic buyers of porcelain, the shape being perhaps too severe.