In mid-eighteenth-century France, elaborately mounted Asian porcelains were at the height of fashion. More Far Eastern porcelains with gilt bronze mounts were produced in the period between 1740 and 1760 than at any other point in European history, and Paris was the center of this phenomenon. Commissioned by the Parisian marchands merciers, or luxury merchants, artisans produced exquisite gilt bronze confections to adorn imported porcelains and often modified the porcelains themselves in order to adapt them to the décor of French interiors. This exhibition explored the design and reception of such rococo luxury objects by focusing on a pair of mounted eighteenth-century Chinese porcelains in The Frick Collection. Purchased by Henry Clay Frick in 1915, the deep blue vases were cut down and the mounts added between 1745 and 1749. Ornamented with elaborate gilt-bronze imitations of natural forms such as shells, coral, pearls, and bulrushes, these costly items fuse a contemporary fascination with natural exotica, largely imported from the East, with the concurrent fashion for Far Eastern porcelains. Drawing on prints, books, and other objects, the exhibition explored the convergence of the natural and the humanly wrought in the production of such elite wares and probed the fascination with the exotic that lies at the heart of the rococo.
Rococo Exotic: French Mounted Porcelains and the Allure of the East was accompanied by a fully illustrated publication that features an introduction by Chief Curator Colin B. Bailey as well as an essay by Andrew W. Mellon Fellow Kristel Smentek, catalogue entries, and a bibliography.