A vase of Famille verte Chinese porcelain is supported by an ormolu tree trunk with several branches which wind around the base of the vase. The vase flanked by two octagonal spinach and egg email sur biscuit plinths, each with a Fô-lion. The whole is mounted on a stepped and reeded ormolu base with a foliate rim.
On the front the vase is decorated with two sitting figures on a carpet, on the back with branches and foliage.
The vase is fitted with a tap in the form of a branch and is covered by a pierced ormolu lid with foliate decoration.
Fô-lions usually come in pairs of male and female and are reputed to be the guardians of Chinese temples. As they are always depicted as fairly small lions, they are also known as Fô-dogs. The male always has a raised paw on some object, the female is depicted with a lions cub.
Fontaines à parfum were used to store perfume or rather “eau de toilette” which one would sprinkle on ones body, but which also was used to sprinkle the room. In the 17th and 18th century hygiene was not quite what it is today and both people and their surroundings needed some sort of ‘pick-me-up’. Perfume was not only used to mask the unsavoury smells but was an absolute necessity to enhance the attractiveness both of people and their houses.
Fontaines à parfum were to be found on small and elegant tables in the rooms people used to receive friends and family in.
In the 18th century these goods were supplied by marchands merciers, who traditionally played an important role in the luxury economy. They maintained close contact with designers, they imported goods and they were active in the distribution of goods made in Paris and other regions of France. The marchands merciers acces to the best designers and manufacturers, to imported materials ànd their right to finish goods, allowed them to play a pivotal role within the luxury market place and to manipulate the fashion markets.
Marchands merciers were also in a good position to coordinate the mounting of porcelain and ceramic wares in metal mounts. They maintained very close relations with the bronze workers and traders and so the mounting of porcelain in silver, silver gilt or bronze gilt (ormolu) became regular practice.
Marchands merciers were the proverbial spider in the web of designers, manufacturers and buyers and so they controlled most of the fashion and trade in luxury goods in 18th-century Paris.
Pierre Kjellberg, Objets montés, du Moyen Âge à nos jours, Paris 2000
Carolyn Sargentson, Merchants and Luxury Markets, The Marchands Merciers of Eighteenth-Century Paris, London 1996.
Site by Artimin