1 Two unusual examples of Duvivier’s painting on Sceaux faience, probably done ca. 1766-68. Photo: Piguet Hôtel des Ventes de Genève, Geneva, Switzerland



Shown here are two eight-lobed Sceaux faience plates decorated (by Fidelle Duvivier) in petit feu enamel colors with birds in flight or standing on rocky plateaux with vegetation, surrounded by fruits and delicately outlined leaves painted on the rims. Traces of gilding on the edges.

These two plates came up at a silent auction held in the spring of 2016 in Geneva, Switzerland.* A faience dealer in France was the successful bidder. By chance, I found them at his website a couple of months later and purchased them.

Although the vegetation is painted in a rather unfamiliar and more fluid style, the bird seen on the lower plate was a sure clue that these two plates were decorated by Duvivier (cf. 2, 3a/b, 4).

2 Detail of the lower plate in (1) showing a swan with two other smaller birds in a landscape. Photo by the author.

3a A Sceaux faience plate with bird painting (swan) by Duvivier, c. 1766-68. Diameter 24 cm. Photo: PIASA Hôtel Drouot, Paris. (See 21a in my book).

In fact, this swan is a recurring motif of Duvivier’s during both periods of his work as a decorator at Sceaux, as one can see from the examples in 3a/b and 4. The plates such as the one in (3a) with the notched or indented edges (referred to as assiettes à bord déchiqueté) were painted on the edges mainly in royal blue with a delicate “comb” pattern (9) known as peignés bleus.** One can imagine that these plates were more costly in their production and intentionally given a finer kind of decoration than was found on the simpler eight-lobed or round faience plates. The added cut fruits (fruits coupés) were popular decorative elements in the Sceaux production throughout the second period – as were the bird motifs. (For other related Duvivier examples see In the Footsteps of Fidelle Duvivier, pp. 20-28).

A third swan example is found on a later water jug (pot à eau) of the Glot period (4).

3b Detail of the faience plate shown in 3a, showing the swan perched on a rocky mound with cut fruit in the foreground and along the rim. 

4 A Sceaux soft-paste porcelain covered water jug decorated by Duvivier, c. 1775. H 14 cm. Cité de la Céramique, Sèvres. (See 22 in my book).

 5a (Detail of top plate in 1) Photo by the author.

Another clue pointing to Duvivier’s hand is the rendering of the birds’ eyes. Duvivier often painted an arc of little dots below the bird’s eye, as visible in (5b) and the examples below:

5b Close-up view of the bird’s eye in 5a showing an arc of dots beneath it.

6 Detail of a bird painted by Duvivier on another covered water jug similar to the one pictured in (4).
© The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge (EC 4 & A-1943). 
(See 52a/c in my book).

7 Detail of a bird of fantasy painted by Duvivier on a Chelsea-Derby mug, c. 1770, showing the same arc of dots beneath the eye (31a in my book. Another Derby bird by Duvivier in 32 appears in a larger format on the Acknowledgements page, with one visible eye similarly painted). Photo: Rod Jellicoe


8 Detail of a Mennecy saucer showing a bird with fruits (and the same dots around the eyes), decorated by Duvivier during his first stay at Sceaux, c. 1766-68. Photo: Nicole Duchon. © Collection communale de Mennecy, France. (This example, and the one shown on the title page of my book, are part of a set of Mennecy cups and saucers belonging to the municipal collection in Mennecy).

9 Detail of the plate in (3a) with the “blue combs” painted on the edge of the plate, as well as cut fruit decoration and finely outlined leaves like those seen in (5a) and (7).


* “Suite de 2 assiettes, XVIIIe siècle, à décor d’oiseaux polychrome. Diam. 24 cm. Provenance: Fondation suisse.” Silencious sale, 7 March 2016, Lot 3187, Piguet Hôtel des Ventes, Geneva, Switzerland.

** Auction, PIASA Hôtel Drouot, 10 Dec. 2010, Lot 162, Sceaux (now in the Musée de l’Île-de-France, Sceaux). “Assiette à bord déchiqueté à décor polychrome au centre d’un cygne dressé sur un rocher sur une terrasse ornée de fruits et arbuste, l’aile décorée de trois groupes de fruits, peignés bleus sur le bord. XVIIIe siècle. Diamètre: 24 cm. 1 200 / 1 500 €.”

The Municipal collection of Mennecy porcelain is described on pp. 16-19 at this link:  http://www.essonne.fr/fileadmin/sports_loisirs/Archives_departementales_2009/pdfs/papyvores/Papy_31-basse_def.pdf