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, 1718–44, 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. 1711–40). 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, 1718–44 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.
Exhibition Credits and Publication
Imperial Privilege: Vienna Porcelain of Du Paquier, 1718–44 is organized by Jeffrey Munger, Curator in the Department of European Sculpture and Decorative Arts, and co-curator Meredith Chilton, an independent ceramic historian.
The exhibition was conceived to mark the publication of Fired by Passion: Vienna Baroque Porcelain of Claudius Innocentius Du Paquier, the first major study to focus solely on the manufactory in more than 50 years. A fully illustrated three-volume publication, it is edited by Meredith Chilton and published by Arnoldsche Art Publishers, and is available for sale in the Museum’s bookshops ($275.00).
The Metropolitan Museum offers an array of education programs in conjunction with the exhibition, including an all-day symposium on September 25, featuring a panel of six speakers, and a series of gallery talks.
A related audio podcast episode is available in the Met Podcast series at www.metmuseum.org/podcast. Co-curators Jeffrey Munger and Meredith Chilton discuss the recreation of the elaborate dessert table in the galleries with culinary historian Ivan Day, who has created sugar sculptures in the style of the 18th century for display on the table, within the exhibition.
The exhibition and its related programs will be featured on the Museum’s website at www.metmuseum.org