Detail of a soft-paste Tournai plate with polychrome decoration showing a turkey standing on a rock elevated above a terrasse of greenery, with two birds on either side. It appears on one of a pair of plates (see 1a), marked on the reverse with a gold tower (second period, c. 1763-1774). © Bruno Simon/Pescheteau-Badin Auctioneers, Paris.

2b As in the example shown in (1b), this bird also occupies a vantage point afforded by some elevated rocks. The scene is the central decoration on a soft-paste porcelain saucer (2a) in the collection of the Seattle Art Museum in Seattle, Washington, USA.
Similar motifs can be seen on Sceaux faience (3, 5) and Mennecy porcelain (4) that Fidelle Duvivier decorated in France, c. 1766-68.

Could this saucer (2a) have belonged to a Chelsea-Derby teaset that Duvivier decorated while working for William Duesbury c. 1769-1773 at Derby?  Many visible clues suggest it.

2a This soft-paste porcelain saucer in the collection of the Seattle Art Museum (i) is on display in their porcelain room under “Birds, Bugs and Beasts” and listed as
“13 – Saucer, ca. 1770. French, Tournai, soft-paste. Gift of Martha and Henry Isaacson. 76.138.” Unmarked. Diam.

On the basis of the suggested attribution made in 1976 by a ceramics specialist when the piece was examined and accessioned, the museum curators listed it as Tournai porcelain. This choice seems reasonable in view of the soft-paste body and the bird’s situation on an

elevated rocky plateau – a motif one can certainly find on Tournai examples (1a).

1a A pair of Tournai soft-paste porcelain plates with spirally moulded borders with a band of basketwork, wavy outline and gilt edges (see also 1b). Polychrome decoration features male and female turkeys plus numerous other birds in the centers and on the rims. Diam. 23,5 and 24 cm. Second period, c. 1763-68.
Auctioned on 18 March 2016, lot 86, by Pescheteau-Badin, Hôtel Drouot, Paris.
© Bruno Simon/Pescheteau-Badin Auctioneers, Paris.

However, the gold dentil border is not typical of the Tournai factory, and it should have probably raised the possibility that this could be an English porcelain saucer.

I believe it was decorated by Fidelle Duvivier c. 1770 during his first stay in England when he was working for the Derby porcelain manufactory. Duvivier had come from the Sceaux manufactory, where he had worked for a couple of years, c. 1766-68 (he also decorated Mennecy porcelain during that time, as I explain in my book). The three examples below show his technique of portraying birds on small rocky plateaux with nearby cut fruits. (ii)

3 Detail of a Sceaux faience plate with bird painting (swan) and cut fruits by Duvivier, c. 1766-68. The plate shape resembles the one shown in 5. Diameter 24 cm. Photo: PIASA Hôtel Drouot, Paris.

Detail of a Mennecy sugar bowl decorated by Duvivier with a peacock and cut or whole fruits, c. 1766-68.
Both 3 & 4 are shown in my book, In the Footsteps of Fidelle Duvivier (2016).

5 A Sceaux faience plate, c. 1766-68, with bird painting by Fidelle Duvivier. Diam. 24 cm. Auction of 22 May 2017, Lot 270, Drouot Richelieu, Paris.
Photo: SVV Guillaume Le Floch, Paris. (iii)


The similar stance of the birds (the position of their legs), and the prominent root hanging below, together with draped brown garlands of leaves – these are typical characteristics by which to identify Duvivier’s decoration.
But what is more difficult to identify is the subject itself. What kind of a bird do we have on the Seattle saucer?

2b – detail


Duvivier’s rendering of peacocks and roosters is usually fairly realistic, whereas his swans are sometimes a bit anatomically “challenged.” But is this bird supposed to be a young swan? The un-swanlike shape of the beak and unusual splashes of blue and pink on the back and head will probably not be found in any book of ornithology, so unless this is an exotic species, (iv)
we may just have to see a good portion of fantasy in this feathered specimen.


(i) Mentioned on p. 44, note 51 of In the Footsteps of Fidelle Duvivier.

(ii) His birds of fantasy with cut fruits appear on two rare Derby examples, c. 1770.
See Footsteps, p. 24 (31a and 32).

(iii) This newest example from a Paris auction (2017) closely resembles the rooster (24) in Footsteps, p. 21.

(iv) The closest resemblance to an actual species that I could discover was the South American Coscoroba swan (shown below). The Wikipedia site states, “the bird has a red beak, legs and feet. They look somewhat more like geese than swans. The female looks almost identical to the male. The cygnet is a patchy color, with brown and gray hues. The coscoroba swan is also lacking the black mask that other swans have where their lores are between the eyes and beak. They look like a very small swan in body and look like a goose in the head.” Could such South American species have been brought to England in the eighteenth century, or was Duvivier inspired by an engraving?

See https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Coscoroba_coscoroba#/media/File:Coscoroba_coscoroba1.jpg