Peacock Feather vases

Auguste Félix Delaherche (1857–1940)
Paris, c. 1889
Wheel-thrown stoneware, cobalt blue and green underglaze decoration on white slip, crackled lead varnish. Incised round stamp under the piece: Auguste Delaherche and order number: 1634. Presented at the World’s Fair of 1889.
Purchase, 1890
Inv. 5700
© Les Arts Décoratifs

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Influenced by his uncle, a great collector of art objects, Auguste Delaherche developed a taste for decoration at a very early age and showed a particular interest in the traditional pottery of the Beauvaisis region, where he was born. After studying at the École des Arts Décoratifs, he joined the Christofle Company as a designer and head of the electroplating workshop. Drawn to the profession of potter, he produced his first pieces in the kilns of the “À l’Italienne” factory in the village of Goincourt , near Beauvais, and from 1887 onwards devoted himself fully to ceramics. Delaherche bought the workshop of master potter Ernest Chaplet on Rue Blomet in Paris, and learned the glazed stoneware technique from Chaplet. In 1887, his exhibition at the Union Centrale des Arts Décoratifs of a selection of vases, pots and dishes decorated with motifs of mistletoe, clover and carnations was well received. In 1889, he distinguished himself at the World’s Fair with his decorated stoneware: large-handled vases that seem to rise up like stems, and two versions of the Peacock Feather vase on display in the center of his stand. Delaherche won the gold medal and went on to become one of the greatest artists of his time, just as Ernest Chaplet and Émile Gallé were achieving great success with the Meiping and Orpheus vase, respectively. The classical and elegant baluster form of the Peacock Feather vase is accentuated by its three registers of decoration. The vase, made of wheel-thrown stoneware, combines painted and engraved decoration on white slip, embellished with a subtle range of blue enamels and a crackled, green-tinted lead varnish. The shimmering translucent gleam of the color, vitrified by firing, adds to the beauty of the motifs and gives the vase something of the splendor of Persian pottery. The crackled varnish, pale slip and fresh colors recall the fragile beauty of Cretan frescoes. During the next two decades, the peacock theme – which also features on a dish in the museum’s collections – inspired many wallpaper and textile manufacturers and Art Nouveau jewelers. Delaherche isolated the feather motif, Japanese style, and repeated it eight times in a frieze around the belly of the vase, alternating two different heights. The power and originality of his work lay in the close and coherent relationship between form and material. Delaherche was a prolific ceramicist whose output totalled some 22,500 pieces. He also designed and produced interior decorations (fireplaces, dining room wall friezes, wainscotting) and exterior decorations (tiles, plaques, finials). The ninety works in the collection of the Musée des Arts Décoratifs are representative of his entire career.

H. A. Delaherche, exhibition catalogue, Paris, Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Pavillon de Marsan, Paris, G. Kadar, 1907.
Céramique française contemporaine, sources et courants, Paris, Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris, Union Centrale des Arts Décoratifs, 1981.
Geneviève Becquart and Dominique Szymusiak, Du Second Empire à l’Art Nouveau. La création céramique dans les musées du Nord-Pas-de-Calais, Lille, Éditions de l’Association des Conservateurs de la Région, 1986
Bernard Giguet, “Auguste Delaherche (1857-1940),” Bulletin du Groupe de Recherches et d’Études de la Céramique du Beauvaisis, no. 21, Beauvais, G.R.E.C.B./Mutualité Agricole, 1999

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