A Selection of Birds
“The cups decorated with birds cannot fail to succeed”– Enrik van Hulst to Jacques René Boileau de Picardie (director of the Sèvres factory), 21 September 1751 (cited in Savill 1988, 2:536).
Birds were a popular theme at the Vincennes and Sèvres porcelain factories. A large, exotic bird with long pink tail-feathers dominates the central reserve of the “Teapot in the Queen’s Style” (théière à la Reine, ca. 1753, slide 13), seen below, framed by gilded trellises and garlands of foliage.
In regard to the flying birds on the teapot cover and in the corner of the central reserve of “Teapot in the Queen’s Style,” Roth and Le Corbeiller’s comments on a similar décor are pertinent: “The birds in the reserves are birds of fancy, fat bellied, aerial acrobats conforming to the fashion of the early 1750s. Probably inspired by oriental lacquer and, by extension, furniture and boiseries, this type of flying bird became fixed in the repertory of the factory during this period” (2000, 294).
Savill notes that there were three types of birds described in the Vincennes sales records: flying (volans), in a bower (à berceau), and on raised banks (sur terrasses) (1988, 2:536).
In later years, several of the bird paintings on Sèvres porcelain were inspired by the works of Buffon (Georges-Louis Leclerc, comte de Buffon), in particular his celebrated The Natural History of Birds (Histoire naturelle des oiseaux, 1770–86). The Sèvres factory owned a copy of Buffon’s book, and “began producing wares based on these illustrations around 1781” (Roth and Le Corbeiller 2000, 286). An example of this in the Fritzsche Collection is "Plate with Partridge Eye Décor and Buffon Bird" (assiette, œil de perdrix, oiseau Buffon, 1793, slide 59), seen below.
References: Savill 1988, 2:536; Arend 1998, 50; Roth and Le Corbeiller 2000, 247, 286, 294.