Imperial Privilege: Vienna Porcelain of Du Paquier, 1718–44

Imperial Privilege: Vienna Porcelain of Du Paquier, 1718–44
Metropolitan Museum of Art: Wrightsman Exhibition Gallery
September 22, 2009 – March 21, 2010


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, beginning at The Metropolitan Museum of Art on September 22, will chart 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 will feature more than 100 works, half drawn from the Metropolitan Museum’s superb collection, and half from the premier private collection of this material.

The exhibition is made possible by Eloise W. Martin and the Melinda and Paul Sullivan Foundation for the Decorative Arts.

With the increase in trade with China in the 17th century, Westerners developed a passion for Chinese and Japanese porcelain. 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 Hapsburg court and Austrian nobility.

The works in Imperial Privilege: Vienna Porcelain of Du Paquier, 1718–44 will be 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. The exhibition will include the recreation in the gallery of an extravagant table that was set for the Holy Roman Empress. In addition to the porcelain, elaborate table decorations and pyramids of fruit sculpted from sugar, specially made for the exhibition, will adorn the table.

Another of the many highlights in the exhibition will be 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 from the Du Paquier manufactory, documenting its place in the history of porcelain production.

Imperial Privilege: Vienna Porcelain of Du Paquier, 1718–44 is organized at the Metropolitan Museum by Jeffrey Munger, Curator in the Department of European Sculpture and Decorative Arts, and co-curator Meredith Chilton, an independent ceramic historian.

Metropolitan Museum of Art