Colnaghi Foundation Journal 04 - Page 112



110
Reflections on a Chinese porcelain cat, seated on bronze cushion, once in the collections of Madame de Pompadour
Reflections on a Chinese porcelain cat, seated on bronze cushion, once in the collections of Madame de Pompadour
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N OTES
1.
2.
Jean Cordey, Inventaire des biens de Madame de Pompadour
(Paris: Société des Bibliophiles Francisque Lefrançois,
1939), no. 363, p. 37, quoted in Pierre-Xavier Hans,
“L’hôtel d’Évreux, palais de l’Élysée,” Madame de
Pompadour et les arts, ed. Xavier Salmon, exh. cat.
(Versailles: Musée national du château, 2002), pp.
126-127, n. 42.
Our most sincere thanks to Prince Amyn Aga Khan,
MM. Christian Baulez, Konrad Bernheimer, Dr. Irene
Brooke, Jorge Coll, the Colnaghi Foundation, Nicolás
Cortés, Pierre-François Dayot, Dr. Calin Demestrescu,
Élisabeth Floret, Dr. Nicola Jennings, MM. Camille
Leprince, Errol Manners, Peter Marino, Thierry
Millerand, Alain Moatti, Olivie Morel, Dr. Sophie
Mouquin, Miss Victoire de Quénetain, MM. Justin
Racanello, Mrs. Marie-Laure de Rochebrune, JeanMarie Rossi, Mrs. Marella Rossi Mosseri, Mr. Vincent
Richter, Dame Rosalind Savill, Mrs. Alice Thomson,
MM. Floris van der Ven and John Whitehead.
Interpreting eighteenth-century century inventories
produced by non-specialists, such as notaries, can
be a challenging exercise. Several factors must be
considered such as specificity of a rare model, size,
colour, and value. Here, the signficant size, the unusual
figure of the cat, the reflections of purple in the
transparent turquoise blue glaze, and the ormolu base
indicate this was the most valuable model produced,
in other words the model listed in Madame de
Pompadour’s collection at the Elysée Palace (Cordey,
Inventaire des biens de Madame de Pompadour, p. 37 : Hôtel
de Pompadour a Paris (Hôtel d’Evreux) (…) Dans le cabinet
des Muses (…) 353. Un chat d’ancienne porcelaine violette sur
une terrau de bronze doré prisé deux cens livres IIc# ) rather
than the one amongst her belongings at the SaintOuen palace (Cordey, Inventaire des biens de Madame de
Pompadour, p. 98 : « Porcelaines rapportées de Saint-Ouen (…)
Porcelaine montée (…) 1345._ Un gros chat bleu céleste, sur sa
terrasse de bronze doré d’or moulu ; prisé quatre vingt seize livres.
Cy IIIXXXVI#.).
This is the conclusion of the present authors as
detailed in this article, and we are grateful to Dame
Rosalind Savill for her observations, Your wonderful
cat!, Email to Dr. Christophe Huchet de Quénetain,
3 November 2017: “[…] I love the description of the
raised head, such that the cat is sitting up, because for
me that is what gives it to the Randon de Boisset and
Pompadour provenance. The other examples I know,
in Germany, USA etc, are all sitting down, as if with
candles shining through their eyes to frighten off the
mice (all now filled with glass eyes), and some look
rather nineteenth-century to me. So to see your cat,
in such a different pose is so very convincing. I can see
that you have gone for the violet example in Madame
de Pompadour's inventory, rather than for the bleu
celeste one, because of the huge difference in value
(Cordey, p. 98 no.1345, under mounted porcelain ‘Un
gros chat bleu céleste, sur sa terrasse de bronze doré d’or moulu,
prisé quatre vingt seize livres). Presumably the following
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pair in the Randon de Boisset sale is closer to the
more usual sitting down model than to your glorious
example. […]”
Porcelain, China, Jingdezhen, period Qianlong
(1736-1795), enamelled glass, chiselled and gilded
bronze, Paris, ca. 1750-1755, 31 x 23 x 14 cm (without
mount), 45 x 30 x 22 cm (with mount).
Sotheby’s Paris, The Qizilbash Collection, 28 November
2016, no. 9.
Royal Collection Trust, inv. RCIN 172.
Paris, Musée du Louvre, Département des Objets
d'art, inv. OA 9, and Royal Collection Trust, inv.
RCIN 58473.
Philippe-François Julliot and Alexandre-Joseph
Paillet, Catalogue des Vafes, Colonnes, Tables de Marbres
rares, Figures de bronze, Porcelaines de choix, Laques, Meubles
précieux, Pendules, Luftres, Bras et Lanternes de bronze doré
d’or mat: Bijoux et autres Effets importants qui composent le
Cabinet de feu M. le duc d’Aumont, Sale catalogue, Paris,
12 December 1782, p. 88, quoted in Xavier Salmon,
Marie-Antoinette, exh. cat. (Paris: Galeries nationales du
Grand Palais, 2008), no. 142, p. 202.
See La Fabrique du luxe : les marchands merciers parisiens au
XVIIIe siècle, ed. Rose-Marie Herda-Mousseaux, exh.
cat. (Paris: musée Cognacq-Jay, 2018-2019).
See Pierre Valet, “Les commerce des objets d’art et les
merchands merciers à Paris au XVIIIe siècle,” Annales
Économies, Sociétés, Civilsations 13 (1958): p. 11.
The early established and regular relationship between
Duplessis, Lazare Duvaux, and several clients of the
latter are well documented. Thus, Marc-René de
Voyer d’Argenson (1722-1782), Marquis de Voyer,
appointed in 1752 lieutenant general of the king’s
armies, general director of studs, and the governor of
the Château de Vincennes, was widely known to have
“bought especially from Duvaux, examples of celadon
porcelain decorated with stands and gilded bronze
mounts. More often, possessor of pieces of choice,
he charged Duvaux to mount them. He put him in
touch with the famous modeler Duplessis…” Duvaux
sold him, as early as 13 September 1750, “Two large
celadon porcelain vases, mounted by Duplessis in
bronze gilded with ormolu 3000 livres”; see Louis
Courajod, Livre-journal de Lazare Duvaux, marchandbijoutier ordinaire du roy, 1748-1758 (1873), 2 vols. (Paris:
Éditions François de Nobele, 1970), no. 601, p. 60; and
on 21 August 1753, “The mount of chiselled copper,
of a blue porcelain vase paid to Mr. Dupleflis, 720
1.(livres) – ormolu gilding of the aforementioned vase,
192 (livres),” no. 1493, p. 167. Another great collector,
Louis-Jean Gaignat (1697-1768), acquired from
Duvaux, on 16 March 1754 “Two urns of celadon
porcelain, opened, mounted in bronze gilded with
ormolu by Dupleffis, 2920 l.” (no. 1713, p. 194).
Courajod, Livre-journal de Lazare Duvaux, no. 502, p. 49.
Courajod, Livre-journal de Lazare Duvaux, no.1965, p.
224.
Amateur Hébert, Dictionnaire pittoresque et historique, ou
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18.
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20.
21.
22.
23.
24.
25.
Description d’Architecture […] & dates des établissements
et monuments de Paris, 2 vols. (Paris: Claude Herissant
1766), I, p. 36.
Amateur Hébert, Dictionnaire pittoresque, I, p. 47.
Pierre Remy, Catalogue de tableaux précieux […] qui
compofent le Cabinet de feu M. Blondel de Gagny, TréforierGénéral de la Caiffe des Amortiffements, sale catalogue,
Paris, 10-24 December 1776, no. 685.  
Pierre Remy, Catalogue de tableaux, no. 693.  
Colin B. Bailey, “Conventions of the EighteenthCentury Cabinet de Tableaux: Blondel d’Azincourt’s
La première idée de curiosité,” The Art Bulletin 69
(1987): pp. 431-437.
Courajod, Livre-journal de Lazare Duvaux, no. 1571, p.
177.
In 1726, the value of the louis was fixed at 24 livres.
An individual earning annually 15,000 livres would be
considered wealthy in eighteenth-century France. For
relatively currency values see Gerald Reitlinger, The
Economics of Taste, 3 vols. (London: Hacker Art Books,
1961).
Alexandre-Joseph Paillet, Philippe-François Julliot, and
Jean-Nicolas Dufresne, Catalogue des tableaux… du cabinet
de M. *** (Blondel d’Azincourt), sale catalogue, Paris,
10-17 February 1783, no. 374.
Collection du baron James de Rothschild (1896-1984), sale
catalogue, Paris, Palais Galliéra, Mes M. Rheims, R.-G.
Laurin and Ph. Rheims, 1 December 1966, no. 138,
pl. C.
Courajod, Livre-journal de Lazare Duvaux, no. 1796, p.
203.
Courajod, Livre-journal de Lazare Duvaux, no. 2294, p.
262.
Paillet, Julliot, and Dufresne, Catalogue des tableaux
[…] du cabinet de M. *** (Blondel d’Azincourt), no.
377. These were purchased for 152 livres by PhilippeFrançois Julliot (1755-1835).
Soame Jenyns, Later Chinese Porcelain (London: Faber
and Faber,1960), no. 2, pl. XXVII.
Several cats of this kind are known:
a) Cat in turquoise blue and aubergine, base in the
shape of a cushion in gilded bronze, length, 17 cm.
(Sale in Paris, Galerie Charpentier, Me Maurice
Rheims, 28 May 1954, no. 110, pl. XXI).
b) Cat in turquoise blue, base in the shape of a cushion
in gilded bronze, length, 14 cm
(Sale in Paris, Galerie Charpentier, Me Maurice
Rheims, 28 May 1954, no. 111, repr. pl. XXI).
c-d) Two cats in turquoise blue, on the base of gilded
bronze (Collection du baron James de Rothschild [18961984], Sale in Paris, Palais Galliera, Mes Maurice
Rheims, René-Georges Laurin et Philippe Rheims, 1
December 1966, no. 138, pl. C: length, 20 cm, height,
12.5 cm.
e) Cat in white and blue, on the base of gilded bronze,
height 16 cm; length 20 cm (Collection René Weiller,
Sotheby’s Monaco, 15 June 1996, no. 114).
f) Cat of a mastic colour scattered with black, on the
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base of gilded bronze, height, 16 cm; length, 20 cm
(Collection René Weiller, Sotheby’s Monaco, 15 June
1996, no. 114).
Pierre Remy, Catalogue raisonné des tableaux, figures &
groupes de bronze, laques, porcelaines distinguées, de différentes
sortes, pendules de goût, lustres de cristal de roche, meubles,
bijoux & autres effets curieux, après le décès de M. de
Beringhen, Premier Ecuyer du Roi, sale catalogue, Paris, 2
July 1770, no. 685.  
See Christoph Martin Vogtherr, Jennifer Tonkovich,
and Andreas Henning, Jean de Jullienne – Collector &
connoisseur, exh. cat. (London: The Wallace Collection,
2011).
Courajod, Livre-journal de Lazare, no. 1353, p. 151.
Paris, Archives nationales: Inventory after death of Jean de
Jullienne, Minutier central des notaires de Paris, Étude
XXIX, 529, 25 March 1766.
Pierre Remy, Catalogue raisonné des tableaux, dessins et
estampes et autres effets curieux après le décès de M. de Julienne,
sale catalogue Paris, 30 March 1767, no. 1426.
Courajod, Livre-journal de Lazare, no. 1389.
For a comparable pair of Chinese blanc de Chine crane
mounted as three branch candelabra, Paris, circa 1750,
see Christie’s, London, 09 July, 2015, no.lot 129.
For a pair of Chinese export porcelain cockerel
candelabra, porcelain from Qianlong period, with
mounts attributed to Caffiéri, Paris, circa 1745-1749,
probably acquired by Madame de Pompadour from
Lazare --Duvaux one 4th of August 1755 for l’Hôtel
d’ÉEvreux in Paris., see Sotheby’s, London, Treasures
sale, 08 July, 2015, no.lot 21.
For a pair of Chinese porcelain heron, or stork,
candelabra, possibly from the collection of Madame
de Pompadour, inventoried as “une paire de girandoles à
trois branches, ciselées et dorées d’or moulu, sur des cigognes de
porcelain, 1320 l.” and purchased from Lazare Duvaux
on 14th February 1752, see Sotheby’s , Monaco, 11th
December 1999, no.lot 88.
Lazare Duvaux’s account books lists pairs of
candelabra, girandoles, incorporating Meissen birds
(Courajod, Livre-journal de LazareDuvaux 17481758/1965, vol. 2, pp. 7, 71,77).
For a comparable pair of Meissen porcelain pug dogs
produced around 1740, modelled by Johann Joachim
Kändler (1706-1755), seated on gilt bronze cushions,
Paris, circa 1740-1745, see Sotheby’s , London, The
Dimitri Mavromatis Collection, 08 July, 2008, no.lot 24.
Courajod, Livre-journal de Lazare Duvaux, Ibidem, no.
1988, p. 226.
Born Élisabeth-Charlotte Huguet de Semonville, the
Countess d'Estrades was the first cousin by marriage
of Madame de Pompadour. From 1743, she was
the widow of a nephew of Charles-François Paul
Lenormand Tournehem (1684-1751), director of
the King's Buildings and an uncle by marriage of
Madame de Pompadour (1721-1764). The Countess
d’Estrades had accompanied the royal favourite on
her first visits to Versailles and took part in the small
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cabinet suppers, during which her wit, humour and
disposition were said to have greatly amused Louis XV.
By coincidence, Madame de Pompadour’s nickname
for the Countess at the time was the “little she-cat”,
following the Countess’s unsuccessful attempt to divert
the King’s affections. The Countess subsequently fell
in love with one of the King’s greatest enemies, the
Marquis d’Argenson. As a result, the star of Madame
de Pompadour’s scheming cousin quickly waned.
Perhaps the Countess sought by any means, including
a gift, to make amends with the royal favourite? In
1755 the Countess d Estrades followed her lover
into exile, and her connection to the object under
consideration here must for the moment remain
hypothetical. See Jacques Levron, Madame de Pompadour
– L’amour et la politique (Paris: Librairie Académique
Perrin, 1975), pp. 165, 167-169.
Jean Cordey, Inventaire des biens de Madame de Pompadour,
no. 363, p. 37, Paris, 1939 (see notes 1 & 2 above).
This cabinet, known as the “Grand Cabinet”, was
a very bright corner room, lit by three windows and
French doors opening onto the garden; it took the
name of the “Cabinet des Portraits”, in reference to
the nine paintings that replaced the family portraits
of the Count d’Évreux. The Cabinet included “a
hundred porcelain vases and bottles from China”,
see Jean Coural, “Hôtel de madame de Pompadour,”
L’Élysée – Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré (Paris: Délégation
à l’action artistique de la Ville de Paris, 1994), pp.
27-28. This hôtel particulier, built on the Faubourg
Saint-Honoré, by the architect Armand-Claude Mollet
(1660-1742), from 1718-1720, for Louis-Henri de La
Tour d'Auvergne (1679-1753), Count d’Évreux, son
of the Duke de Bouillon (1641-1721), was sold by
his heirs on 24 December 1753, to the Marquise de
Pompadour for 500,000 livres. See Marie-Laure de
Rochebrune, “La Passion de madame de Pompadour
pour la porcelain,” in Salmon, Madame de Pompadour et
les arts, p. 416.
Lazare Duvaux sold among other things, on 15 June
1754, to Madame de Pompadour: “A decoration in
bronze gilded with ormolu consisting of two urns of
celadon porcelain, modelled especially by Dupleflis,
960 1(livres) – An embellishment in bronze gilded with
ormolu consisting of a mounted vase (in height) of
celadon porcelain, with a ram’s head, a new model by
Dupleflis, 320 1. (livres) – Le port à Bellevue, 3 1. (livres)
12 .[ols].” Courajod, Livre-journal de Lazare Duvaux, no.
1810, p. 204.
Francis J. B. Watson, Chinese Porcelains in European
Mounts (New York: China Institute of America, 1981),
p. 10.
Courajod, Livre-journal de Lazare Duvaux, no. 886, p. 93.
Cordey, Inventaire des biens de Madame de Pompadour, no.
1345, p. 98. Another cat, smaller than that under
consideration here – and undoubtedly sold for a lower
price – is now preserved in the Cognacq-Jay museum
in Paris: this is turquoise blue in hue, with the space
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between fore and hind legs not hollowed out (and
possibly missing its original base, as suggested by
the state of its interior). See Thérèse Burollet, Musée
Cognacq-Jay. 2 Porcelaines (Paris: Les Musées de la Ville
de Paris, 1983), no. 114, pp. 226-227, 21.5 x 15.5 x 14
cm. Another cat, sitting in a similar position, of black
and green hue, was sold at Christie’s London, 1 July
1976, no. 2, 26.5 cm.
Christian Baulez, “Une terrine et un plateau-corbeille
du service Bleu céleste de Louis XV. Vincennes 1753,
1755,” , La Revue des musées de France – Revue du Louvre 1
(2007): pp. 50-54.
Thomas Bentley, Journal of a Visit to Paris, 1776, ed.
Peter France (Brighton: University of Sussex, 1971),
p. 44.
The cat appears in the catalogue of the 1777 sale
of Boisset’s goods. See Ronald Freyberger, “The
Randon de Boisset sale, 1777: decorative arts,” Apollo
111 (1980): pp. 298-303. Geneviève Mazel, “La vente
Randon de Boisset en 1777 et le marché de l'art au 18e
siècle,” L'Estampille (1987): no. 202, pp. 40-47.
Paris, Archives nationales: Inventory after death of
Inventaire après décès de Pierre Louis Paul Randon de
Boisset, Minutier central des notaires de Paris, Étude
LXXXIV, 546, 18 October 1776.
Pierre Remy and Claude-François Julliot, Catalogue
de tableaux & dessins précieux des maîtres célèbres des trois
écoles, figures de marbres, de bronze & de terre cuite, estampes
en feuilles & autres objets du cabinet de feu M. Randon de
Boisset, Receveur général des Finances, par P. Remy, on a joint
à ce catalogue celui des vases, colonnes de marbres, porcelaines,
des laques, des meubles de Boule & dautres effets précieux, sale
catalogue, Paris, 27 February 1777, no. 628.
The annotation occurs in copy of the sale catalogue
conserved in Paris, Bibliothèque de l’Institut national
d’histoire de l’art: collections Jacques Doucet, where it
is recorded “Le Brun p. N°. 628….1250# La dsse. de
Mazarin.”
Paris, Archives nationales: Inventory after death of LouiseJeanne de Durfort de Duras, Duchesse de Mazarin, Minutier
central des notaires de Paris, Étude XXIII, 778, 15
May 1781.
Jean-Baptiste-Pierre Le Brun, Catalogue raisonné des
marbres, jaspes, agates, porcelaines anciennes, laques, beaux
meubles, lustres, feux & bras de bronze doré par Gouttier, boîtes
de laque, lapis, & autres formant le cabinet de Madame la
duchesse Mazarin, sale catalogue, Paris, 10 December
1781, no. 100. The Duchesse of Mazarin (like
Madame de Pompadour) also owned a second,
smaller cat, which is described in the inventory in the
“Antechamber of the gallery with a view to the garden
… (under the no. 152.) Item: a cat in antique porcelain
of Japan [sic] purple four hundred and eighty livres,
cy 480.” (Paris, Archives nationales: Inventory after death
of Louise-Jeanne de Durfort de Duras, Duchesse de Mazarin,
Minutier central des notaires de Paris, Étude XXIII,
778, 15 May 1781). It is described again in the sale
of 1781 as “A Cat [in antique purple] seated on its

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