About this artwork
This kettle, made at the Sèvres porcelain manufactory outside Paris, illustrates a story recounted by the ancient Roman historian Titus Livius, known in English as Livy. In 390 B.C., when Rome was under siege, a plebeian (commoner) named Albinius was fleeing the city, transporting his family in a cart. He encountered the vestal virgins, the guardian priestesses of the sacred flame of Rome, who were escaping on foot carrying their ritual vessels. Albinius offered his cart to the priestesses, thus performing a noble deed exhibiting both piety and gravitas, or seriousness of purpose.The kettle is hard-paste porcelain, made from a mixture of kaolin (white clay made from broken down feldspathic rock) and petuntse (chinastone) that is glazed with powdered feldspar and fired at high temperatures (about 2372° F, or 1300° C). The porcelain is covered with a deep brown glaze, called fond laque (literally “lacquer glaze”) for its resemblance to lacquer. The painters at Sèvres developed this technique in about 1780. The figures, in matte gold and outlined in black enamel, are called figures étrusques (Etruscan figures) in Sèvres’ records, an allusion to the ancient vases that were so fashionable in the Neoclassical era.
Currently Off View
- European Decorative Art
- Manufacture nationale de Sèvres (Manufacturer)
- Hard-paste porcelain, brown ground (fond laque), black enamel, and gilding; silver-gilt and ebony mounts
- 20.3 × 19 cm (7 15/16 × 7 1/2 in.)
- Harry and Maribel G. Blum, Annette M. Chapin, Mr. and Mrs. Fred Krehbiel, and Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Varley endowments; through prior acquisition of Richard T. Crane, Jr.