A pair of porcelain wall vases "Cornucopias"
Artist/Maker: Jacob Petit
Artist/Maker Dates: 1830 - 1868
Place of Production: France, Fontainebleau
Date of Production: middle of 19th century
Materials: gilding, porcelain, underglaze hand painting
Height: 30.0 cm.
In the 1830’s, while Parisian porcelain makers and decorators continued to create models that reinforced the neo-classic style, Jacob Petit (1796-1868) went against tradition and proposed objects with a wide variety of styles and decoration. His surprisingly extravagant production appeared when the art of the porcelain industry was falling into decline, and its success gave fresh energy to the decorative porcelain trade.
Born in Paris in 1796, Jacob Mardouché (who went by Petit, the last name of his wife, Anne Adelaïde Petit) studied painting in Antoine Jean Gros’s workshop. In 1820, he earned his certification as a porcelain manufacturer. He made several journeys to Italy, Switzerland and Germany before settling down for a few years in England, where he studied various industries and painted stage sets.
Petit returned to France around 1830-1831 and published an important interior design collection composed of hundreds of drawings depicting models of vases, furniture, chairs, and silver and bronze objects. His tome presented a variety of previous styles, with an obvious preference for Antiquity and Gothic styles. After a short period at Sèvres, he opened a small workshop in Belleville.
His success was fast and spectacular, and in 1833 he bought the porcelain factory of Baruch Weil at Fontainebleau. The factory was appreciated by Louis XVIII, Charles X and the Duchess of Berry. He also owned a decoration workshop in Paris at 26 Bondy street.
In 1846, he and his partner, Nicolas Moriot, a painter at the royal factory of Sèvres, opened a small porcelain factory there. Five years later, he moved his Fontainebleau factory to Avon and then sold it in 1862 to one of his employees, Etienne Jacquemin.
Petit’s factory was one of the most famous ones in existence between 1830 and 1860, and its production was rich and varied. After 1838, it limited its production to ornamental objects: flasks, perfume bottles, clocks, perfume burners, paperweights, vases, candlesticks, and small statues.
Beginning in 1834, Petit displayed his work at the Industrial Exhibitions, and then at the World Fairs. His remarkable objects and their technical innovations earned him many awards. His work is eclectic, within which we can find Gothic, Renaissance, Neoclassicism and Rococo styles, as well Far and Middle Eastern motifs. These styles and motifs are at times combined, and at times alone.
Because of Petit’s journeys abroad, in central Europe in particular, foreign influences are evident in his work. While abroad he studied an unusually exuberant Rococo style that he imposed on his contemporaries in France upon his return.
During the Romantic period, this artist with an unbridled imagination created “strange” Rocaille forms that were easily recognizable on the Paris porcelain scene. His Rococo patterns decorate angles, curved, and flat surfaces. The animated forms, high reliefs, foliated branches, birds, flames, flowers, and fruits all composed a luxurious style that was completely different from the austere patterns represented in classic art.
Clocks are particularly representative of this change in taste. Richly decorated with multicolored flowers, Rocaille, and winding foliage, they offer a fine example of the Central European Rococo influence.
Among Petit’s successes were the “snowball” vases, which were the glory of Meissen, Germany from 1730 to 1750. Petit gave his imagination free rein and created small vases that were completely covered with tiny, white flowers that were executed with meticulous care.
Another example of the profound influence that eastern European porcelain had on Petit are the small, multicolored statues representing different characters from the Louis XV and Saxony courts. He also created musicians, shepherds, shepherdesses, and animals. These ornamental figurines sometimes serve a utilitarian function, ingeniously hiding flasks, inkwells, paperweights, or matchboxes.
Inspired by 18th century painters and decorators, Petit used the same bright colors for his decorations. Multicolored flowers in relief and scenes with characters from different countries and periods are accentuated by black, turquoise, bright green, or amaranth backgrounds. The liveliness of the colors is complimented by the exuberance of the gilding.
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