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Ewer with the Froulay de Tessé Coat of Arms

Date : Around 1725

The inspiration for ‘helmet ewers’ such as this one came from a design popularly produced by silversmiths towards the end of the reign of Louis XIV. They were used for guests to wash their hands at the beginning and end of banquets, and possibly also for serving drinks. From the middle of the 18th century they disappeared from use, no longer suited to contemporary conventions of service and civility.

This piece bears the coat of arms of Charles-Louis de Froulay de Tessé (1687-1767), chaplain to Louis XV and ordained bishop of Le Mans in 1724. Depicted here in monochrome blues under the ewer’s spout, the Froulay de Tessé shield was silver and featured a diagonal cross in red, edged in black with a border of curved indentations. A ducal coronet and an archbishop’s mitre sit directly above the coat of arms. A contrast to the eminent personage in question is provided by two putti irreverently represented relieving themselves on each side of the spout. Completed in 1725, the decoration of finely executed floral lambrequins is characteristic of earthenware production at the time, which had reached the height of its success.