Colnaghi Foundation Journal 04 - Page 102

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
On 6 May 1750, it records “a purple porcelain cat on
a mount gilded with ground gold (600 livres).”11 On 10
December 1754, “A purple cat (25 louis)” is invoiced
to the Count de Luc, Jean-Baptiste-Hubert de
Ventimiglia (1720-1777), widower of Pauline-Félicité
de Mailly de Nesles (1712-1741), the former mistress of
Louis XV.12
Descriptions of important contemporary collections
also document the popularity such objects. For example,
in 1766, a contemporary source recorded aspects of the
collection of Augustin Blondel de Gagny (1695-1776),
steward of Menus Plaisirs from 1752 to 1757:
The cabinet of Mr. Blondel de Gagny,
place Louis le Grand, commonly known as
Vendôme, is one of the finest and most original
in Paris, both for the selection of paintings
[...] and for other extremely beautiful works,
such as [...] a very large quantity of the most
perfect antique porcelains, and almost all of
the highest quality.13
This description of the Blondel de Gagny collection
further identifies in the “second room furnished
with scarlet damask… Two cats & four Crables [sic]
of ancient porcelain in celestial blue.”14 Objects from
Blondel de Gagny’s collection were auctioned for the
benefit of his grandchildren in 1776 and 1777. The
1776 sale included: “Two peacocks, two carpes (sic),
a cat (of porcelain of celestial blue) & three stands of
violet broche marble,” all of which sold for 20 livres and
10 sols;15 and crucially “Two crouching cats of beautiful
porcelain in celestial blue, on gilded bronze feet,” which
sold for 499 livres and 19 sols.16
Fig. 2 / Chinese, Jingdezhen,
Kangxi period (1690-1722), Cat
Crouching, Forming a Night
Light, Paris, porcelain, 9.5 x 14
cm, London, British Museum,
George Eumorfopoulos
Augustin’s son, Barthélémy-Augustin Blondel
d'Azincourt (1719-1794) was also a loyal customer
of Duvaux, with a taste for Chinese porcelain.17 On
21 November 1753, Duvaux supplied him with “Two
Cats of celestial blue with bases gilded with ormolu.”18
These cats, which each cost 300 livres, were probably
smaller than those previously acquired by the Count du
Luc , given the considerably higher price of the latter.19
It is impossible to determine whether these cats relate
in any way to “Four Little Blue Cats in celestial blue, in
uniform colour, & Two Storks,” which were sold with
Blondel d’Azincourt’s property in 1783 for the modest
sum of 120 livres.20 It is also difficult to assess whether
the two cats acquired by Blondel d’Azincourt in 1753
can be identified with those described in the 1776 sale
of his father’s goods; these were listed with a selling
price more in keeping with the original value. Whatever
the case may be, these cats must have resembled others
held in private collections.1
In fact, Lazare Duvaux sold several other cats with
mounts to Blondel d'Azincourt. On 6 June 1754 his
account book records “A stand with gadroons and
mouldings in copper gilded with ormolu for a purple
porcelain cat,” sold to the collector for 36 livres.22 On
26 December 1755, Blondel purchased “An ancient cat
from China on a golden mount gilded with ormolu”
for 144 livres, evidently without polychrome detail, but
at a price proportional to its size.23 The 1783 sale of
Blondel’s property also included “Two crouching cats,
spotted and shaded with brown on a white background,
on an oval stand with gadroon feet in gilded bronze,”24
a description that evokes a crouching white cat with
black spots (fig. 2) preserved in the British Museum,
although it is impossible to confirm this comparison,
given that dimensions are lacking.25 The same colours
were deployed on “two beautiful black & white tiger
cats, of the same porcelain (from China), on their
cushions of gilded bronze,”26 which were sold during
the dispersion of the collections of Henri-Camille de
Beringhen (1693-1770), First Squire of the King. Their
selling price of 300 livres thirteen years earlier leads one
to imagine that they were even finer and/or larger.
Further examples of Duvaux’s dealings in similar items
contribute to our understanding of the relative value


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