Beginning in the mid-19th century, the universal showcase for the world’s greatest artisans and craftsmen to unveil trend-setting techniques, styles and ideas were the International Exhibitions. The legendary Sèvres Porcelain Manufactory saw the perfect opportunity to illustrate their mastery of the Art Nouveau aesthetic through these Monumental Swan Vases at the 1900 Paris World’s Fair.
Designed by Sèvres artist Horace Bieuville, these exquisite vases were created to draw attention to the shift in European decorative art ideals at the turn of the 20th century, which focused upon Art Nouveau and Japonisme influences. Measuring nearly four-feet in height, each grand vessel is enveloped with a stylized organic motif of graceful swans gliding through a lotus pond. The muted tree line in the background draws the viewer into the scene, giving the water fowl both focus and depth.
Known today as “World’s Fairs”, the International Exhibitions provided artists like Bieuville the opportunity to create the most beautiful and innovative pieces to display to an international audience, which often included royalty and celebrities from around the world. For well-established firms such as Sèvres, the events served to solidify their status as trend-setters by proving they were on the cutting-edge of technique and design.
Based on their sheer size and masterful craftsmanship, it is certain that these vases were created specifically for the Exhibition. Since the Exhibition that year was held in the firm’s own country, it served as the perfect opportunity to present the epitome of French porcelain to the world.
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