NEW YORK, NY.-
The Du Paquier ceramic manufactory, founded by Claudius Innocentius du Paquier in Vienna in 1718, was only the second factory in Europe able to make true porcelain in the manner of the Chinese. This small porcelain enterprise developed a highly distinctive style that remained Baroque in inspiration throughout the history of the factory, which was taken over by the State in 1744. Imperial Privilege: Vienna Porcelain of Du Paquier, 171844, at The Metropolitan Museum of Art
through March 21, 2010, charts the history of the development of the Du Paquier factory, setting its production within the historic and cultural context of Vienna in the first half of the 18th century. The exhibition features more than 100 works, half drawn from the Metropolitan Museum's superb collection, and half from the premier private collection of this material.
In the early 18th century, Vienna was undergoing the remarkable transformation from a defensive medieval stronghold into a metropolitan city and enjoying a golden era. Successive Holy Roman emperors patronized magnificent building projects, laying the foundation for an imperial style of architecture that influenced the noble houses of the Habsburg Empire and the great religious institutions. These buildings were decorated lavishly with sculpture, paintings, and decorative objects, including those fashioned in the dazzling new material of the day: porcelain. After the increase in trade with China in the 17th century, Westerners developed a passion for Chinese and Japanese porcelain, and the demand grew so great that Europeans began experiments to replicate the Chinese hard-paste porcelain, or "white gold," and create their own production. Germany was the first to produce true porcelain in 1708, leading to the founding of the Meissen factory in 1710. Soon after, Claudius Innocentius du Paquier enlisted a worker from the Meissen factory to help him produce porcelain in Vienna. Although it shared a number of forms with Meissen porcelain, the Vienna factory distinguished itself by developing its own distinctive and whimsical style of painted decoration.
Du Paquier produced a range of tablewares, decorative vases, and small-scale sculpture that found great popularity with the Habsburg court and Austrian nobility. In 1718 du Paquier was granted an exclusive imperial privilege, or patent, by Emperor Charles VI (r. 171140). Although the emperor declined to give direct financial support, the manufactory had his "especial imperial, royal, and princely protection." For twenty-five years, the Du Paquier manufactory produced artistically innovative porcelain with an outstanding quality of decoration, revealing Baroque exuberance as well as a distinctive whimsy and individuality. In 1744, however, when the imperial privilege expired, du Paquier found himself burdened by debt and sold the enterprise to Maria Theresa, the future empress of Austria.
The works in Imperial Privilege: Vienna Porcelain of Du Paquier, 171844 are installed according to the functions they served drinking vessels, wares for dining, decorative vases in the refined life of the 18th-century Viennese aristocracy for which they were created. Highlights include an elephant wine dispenser, a barrel-shaped tankard which was used for beer or ale, a food warmer with beautifully painted flowers and trellis work, a magnificent gaming box with porcelain gaming chips, and a splendid tureen from the Service of the Russian Czarina Anna Ivanovna decorated with the Russian imperial arms.
The exhibition also includes the recreation in the gallery of an extravagant table that was set for the Archduchess Maria Theresa for a banquet in 1740. Based on an engraving showing the second course of the dinner, the arrangement gives an impression of how dessert may have been served at the imperial banquet. In addition to the porcelain, elaborate table decorations and pyramids of fruit sculpted from sugar, specially made for the exhibition, adorn the table.
Another of the many highlights in the exhibition is a tulip vase from the Metropolitan Museum's collection. Depicting a scene of a man (thought to be du Paquier) seated at a tea table with a display of porcelain on a buffet, it includes an inscription around the scene that reads: "China, you will not have called your arts unknown any longer; in Europe, you will triumph through the skill of Vienna." Calling attention to Vienna's great success in making porcelain, the vase is a very unusual, yet highly significant, piece documenting the Du Paquier manufactory's place in the history of porcelain production.