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Standing cup

Artist or maker:
Saint Porchaire workshop (estab. c 1525)
Date:
c 1540-1550
Place of production:
Paris?, France
Medium:
lead-glazed earthenware
Type of object:
standing cups
Accession number:
2773

Commentary

Striking patterns and vivid monsters characterise this cup as a precious example of "Saint-Porchaire" ware. Only about 70 works survive. Celebrated as a singular piece when in the possession of Baron James de Rothschild (1792-1868), the cup is actually one of a number of similar examples that indicate the working practices of its elusive maker.

Soon after the cup was acquired by James around 1860, it was published by Edouard Lièvre in his luxury two-volume book celebrating the best works of art to be found in Parisian private collections. Lièvre's illustrations were accompanied by commentaries written by the leading scholars of the day. Alexandre Sauzay, an expert on Italian and French ceramics, described the controversy about where and for whom these pieces were made.

Today, the mystery is still not resolved. They were probably first produced in the village of Saint-Porchaire under the patronage of local aristocrats. The unusual lightweight and pale clay, which contrasts so well with the inlaid ochre patterns and coloured lead glazing, comes from this region. Such clay is difficult to work by hand. The masks and sphinxes on the cup stem, inspired by contemporary metalwork, were made with moulds. These easily travelled so artists working elsewhere, such as Bernard Palissy (c. 1510-c. 1590), could readily copy the style. However, some scholars think they were made in Paris, primarily for the King.

Several pieces do have royal insignia, but many do not. A very similar cup to the Waddesdon example was probably made for the marquise d'Épinay, Louise de Goulaine, from Brittany, between 1540-1550 (Hermitage, acc. no. NF 421).The similarity suggests that the Waddesdon cup may be of the same date. The fleurs-de-lys of France in the bowl of the Waddesdon cup may indicate a royal patron or may simply be a popular decorative motif. A cup with similar lion masks and interlacing decoration has royal insignia, but its quality suggests it was not made for the King (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, inv. no. 17.190.1746).

In addition to the two similar cups mentioned above, the Waddesdon standing cup is also akin to four more examples. The surrounding strapwork and rams' heads, comparable to contemporary prints, are repeated in a cup now in the Musée du Louvre, Paris (acc. no. MMR 105).
A further cup in the Louvre (acc. no. OA 1306); one in the National Gallery of Art, Washington (inv. no. 1942.9.351); and one in the Cleveland Museum of Art (acc. no. 1951.112) also share certain features. The cups differ in height and decorative details, but their similarity suggests a production technique based on models, moulds and repetition, as found in a well connected and organised workshop.

The rarity and intrigue of these pieces only enhanced the desire of 19th-century collectors to own an example. At the sale of the collection of Adrien-Joseph Rattier in Paris in 1859, several pieces were auctioned for exorbitant prices. An acquaintance of the dealer from Saint-Armand-Montrond who owned the Waddesdon cup at the time, was inspired by witnessing this phenomena. He acquired it, returned to Paris, and offered it for sale to James de Rothschild. It must have been a memorable piece. James's son, Baron Gustave de Rothschild (1829-1911), later acquired the very similar cup now in the Cleveland Museum of Art (acc. no. 1951.112).

In 1961, the cup was transferred from Eythrope, the private home of Dorothy de Rothschild, and displayed in the Smoking Room at Waddesdon Manor. The Bachelors' Wing and Smoking Room were opened to the public for one day a week in the early 1960s. The original collections were gradually supplemented by Dorothy with items from Alice de Rothschild’s Renaissance collection at Eythrope, as well as suitable items inherited by her husband, such as this cup.

Phillippa Plock, 2014

Physical description

Dimensions (mm):
163 x 145 x 145; 92 (base diam.); weight 347g.
Marks:
J. 6.
Owner's mark
[on base, small white oval label, printed, label of Betty de Rothschild]

No. 41
J. de R.
C.
Owner's mark
[on base, octagonal label, handwritten in ink, printed blue border and lines]
Labels:
R4177
Label
[rectangular label, handwritten in ink, on base, blue rectangular border]

3235
Label
[on base, octagonal label, handwritten in ink, double blue line printed border]

KK. 1
Printed label
[on base, small blue oval label, printed]

History

Provenance:
Owned by the dealer Monsieur Bézard of Saint-Armand-Montrond (active c. 1860); purchased from Bézard by an acquaintance who had attended the Rattier sale in March 1859; sold by this acquaintance for 12,000FF to Baron James de Rothschild (b.1792, d.1868) in 1861; inherited by his wife Baroness Betty de Rothschild (b.1805, d.1886); by descent to her son Baron Edmond de Rothschild (b.1845, d.1934); by descent to his son James de Rothschild (b.1878, d.1957); accepted by The Treasury Solicitor in lieu of taxes on the Estate of Mr James de Rothschild in 1963; given to Waddesdon The Rothschild Collection (The National Trust) in 1990.
Collection:
Waddesdon (National Trust)
Accepted by HM Government in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to the National Trust for display at Waddesdon Manor, 1990

Bibliography

Bibliography

Henri Delange; Recueil de toutes les pièces connues jusqu'à ce jour de la faïence française dite de Henri II et Diane de Poitiers; Paris; Quai Voltaire; 1861; p. 33, no. 40; with Bézard provenance information.
Édouard Lièvre; Les collections célèbres d'oeuvres d'art; 2 vols; Paris; Goupil; 1866-1879; pl. 43; as in collection of James de Rothschild.
Daphne Barbour, Shelley Sturman; Saint-Porchaire Ceramics; Washington, D.C.; National Gallery of Art; 1996; pp. 67, 135, cat. no. 10, ill.; with incorrect provenance of Rattier.
Thierry Crépin-Leblond; Une orfèvrerie de terre: Bernad Palissy et la céramique de Saint-Porchaire; Musée national de la Renaissance, Paris, 24 September 1997 - 12 January 1998; Paris; Éditions de la Réunion des musées nationaux; 1997; pp. 90-91.
Pippa Shirley; Le fumoir: chambre des trésors de Ferdinand; Les collections exceptionnelles des Rothschild: Waddesdon Manor (Hors-série de l'Estampille/l'Objet d'Art, No. 14), Dijon, Éditions Faton, 2004; 46-53; p. 51, ill.

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