A fine and rare pair of early Louis XV ormolu-mounted Chinese famille rose porcelain covered vases. The ormolu circa 1740 and stamped with the  "C" couronné poinçon, the porcelain, Qianlong, circa  1735.. photo Sotheby's

height 11 in.; width 12 1/2 in. 28 cm; 32 cm. Lot 381. Estimate 150,000-200,000 USD

NOTE DE CATALOGUE: The craft of mounting oriental porcelain with metal mounts is rooted in the Middle Ages, it flourished during the Renaissance and the few examples that have survived give testimony to the taste, finesse and craftsmanship of the period. During the reign of Louis XIV (1643-1715) considerable quantities of porcelain were mounted in silver, however relatively few examples have survived. Porcelains were mounted in metal in other parts of Europe, notably in Holland, German, England and Italy, however it was in Paris that the craft was most notably exercised. This was largely due to the influence of the marchands merciers who were the principal source of inspiration in interior decoration and design at the time. Chinese and Japanese vases, cups, bowls and saucers were mercilessly cut and adapted to the mounts which were made for them in order to give these exotic objects a French appearance. Thus the present pair of vases with lids created from saucers or shallow bowls, and the vase itself almost certainly cut down from a larger vase, were combined to create a luxurious gilded French effect. 

It would be difficult to over-state the popularity of oriental porcelains during the second half of Louis XIV's reign. It is not clear when the transition was made to ormolu mounts, however it seems to have taken place during the late Régence period with the emergence of the rococo style and the taste for gilding which became more and more prevalent in the French domestic interior. One can also observe a change in the color palette of the porcelains themselves; from the ubiquitous blue and white of the 17th century, to the more colorful palette of the late years of Louis XIV's reign and the ensuing Régence, and to the popular celadon and blue monochromes of the Louis XV and Louis XVI periods.

An almost identical pair of vases from the Riahi collection is illustrated, Quelques chefs-d'oeuvre de La Collection Djahanguir Riahi, Paris, 1999, pp.80-81. The decoration of the Riahi pair is virtually identical incorporating a café-aulait ground with rose colored peonies and branches of prunus in tones of blue, rose green and yellow. The lids which are also composed of two porcelain elements are centered by almost identical ormolu leaf and berry finials. These finials appear on a number of recorded examples of mounted porcelain and must have come from the same source – possibly a source controlled by one of the marchands merciers. The dragon-form handles are, however, a much rarer element. One recorded example incorporates Meissen porcelain painted in the oriental taste (illustrated, Wannenes, Les Bronzes Ornementaux et Les Objets Montés de Louis XIV à Napoléon III, Milan, 2004, p.92); it is also fitted with
identical ormolu rockwork borders around the neck and with an identical foot, clearly deriving from the same bronzier.

Another form of handle found during this period is equally exotic, consisting of addorsed mermaids as seen on a pair of covered vases formerly in the Keck collection, sold, Sotheby's, New York, December 5-6, 1991, lot 10. The Keck vases again have identical berried leafy finials. It is possible that the dragon handles and the mermaid handles mark the transition from the strapwork mounts traditionally found on mounted porcelain of the late Louis XIV and Régence
period, to the flamboyant and fanciful mounts of the rococo period. A pair of Louis XV ormolu-mounted vases and covers of this shape fitted with almost identical ormolu mounts was sold Sotheby's New York, November 18, 2010, lot 202.

Sotheby's. Important English and European Furniture, Silver, Porcelain and Carpets. New York | 23 mai 2012, 10:00 AMwww.sothebys..com