Diplomatic Reception Rooms, U.S. Department of State

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Web Property of the U.S. Department of State

Object Details

ca. 1824-1830
France: Paris (possible)
France, for export
ceramic; porcelain with overglaze enamels and gilt
Overall: 13 3/4 in x 7 5/8 in x 5 1/2 in; 34.925 cm x 19.3675 cm x 13.97 cm
According to tradition, brought to America by Lafayette on his second tour and presented to the Comstock family of Washington, D.C.; by descent to Misses Eliza and Clara Comstock; Arpad Antiques, Washington, D.C., in 1966; to the Fine Arts Committee through purchase
One incised 12 inscribed in gold 'deroche Vasginton, the other inscribed 'deroche N'e.
Credit Line
Funds donated by Mr. and Mrs. Frederick M. Lange in honor of former Ambassador and Mrs. George C. McGhee
The Diplomatic Reception Rooms, U.S. Department of State, Washington, D.C.
Accession Number

Related Objects

DRR Seal

One from a Pair of Paris Apricot-Ground Porcelain Campana Form Vases

ca. 1770
ceramic; porcelain, overglaze enamels and gilt

Object Essay

On the occasion of the Marquis de Lafayette’s departure from Washington for France on September 7, 1825, President John Quincy Adams alluded to the great outpouring of affection that Lafayette had enjoyed during his fourteen-month tour: “You have heard the mingled voices of the past, the present, and the future age, joining in one universal chorus of delight at your approach; and the shouts of unbidden thousands, which greeted your landing on the soil of freedom, have followed every step of your way, and still resound, like the rushing of many waters, from every corner of our land.”1Adams’s farewell address is reprinted in Klamkin, 190–93. Much of her account of Lafayette’s visit was taken from Levasseur. Beginning at New York City, Lafayette was greeted by ceremony and generous hospitality in all of the twenty-four states then existing. Americans were enjoying an exuberant period of nationalism following the War of 1812; though few of them were old enough to have participated in the Revolution, they honored Lafayette as a living symbol of the first great struggle for freedom.

In 1777, not yet twenty years of age, the Marquis de Lafayette sailed to America for the first time, he was eager to be a part of the Revolutionary cause, both for the glory he hoped would follow an American victory and for the revenge against the British he sought in retaliation for France’s humiliation and his father’s death (1759) during the Seven Years’ War. Americans viewed his first offers of volunteer service cautiously, but eventually embraced Lafayette as one of the great heroes of the War. Furthermore, his youth and enthusiasm inspired his virtual adoption by General Washington. As a prominent officer in the Continental Army, Lafayette symbolized the spirit of cooperation between America and France in a way that was never fully achieved by the Comte de Rochambeau, who actually commanded the French troops in America. Thus, Lafayette was warmly welcomed on his first, six-month visit to the United States in 1784, and he was enormously popular on his triumphal return in 1824 at the invitation of President James Monroe on behalf of Congress.          

Tradition states that Lafayette brought thirteen pairs of these vases with him (another pair in the Collection is Acc. No. 66.18–.19) for use as gifts to his hosts. This charming family history is likely apocryphal since Lafayette’s fortunes had been greatly depleted over the years and, as “The Nation’s Guest,” he was not expected to bestow expensive gifts. Like so many other souvenirs of Lafayette’s visit made in America and abroad of materials ranging from silver, silk, and glass to earthenware and paper, these porcelain vases were probably produced for the American market at about the time of Lafayette’s tour of 1824–1825.2See Klamkin for illustrations of these materials and Sweeney Lafayette, for examples of souvenirs at Winterthur. A similar pair, preserved in the Winterthur Museum, are signed by the decorator “Jeroche.”3One of this pair is illustrated ibid., 16. Both portraits of Winterthur’s pair face the same direction and both are also marked “CL” in red on the bottom. No history for the pair is recorded in the Museum’s file.

In pose and expression, the depictions of Lafayette on the present vases are reminiscent of his full-length portrait by Ary Scheffer (1793–1858) and, although the images on the vases lack the great coat, the other details of his costume are similar. Scheffer executed three paintings with the same likeness. The first, of 1818, was Lafayette’s favorite of all the portraits done during his lifetime; the second hangs in the United States House of Representatives, a gift of the artist in 1825; and the third, a smaller version probably painted by Scheffer in 1822 for the engraver Leroux to use for his print of the same size, is in the collection of the Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University.4For an illustration of the Scheffer portrait at Harvard, see Mongan, 120–22. Scheffer’s gift to Congress on January 18, 1825, is recorded in Nolan, 269. For an extensive discussion of his and other portraits of Lafayette, see Miller 1989, 91–194.

Ellen Paul Denker and Bert R. Denker

Excerpted from Clement E. Conger, et al. Treasures of State: Fine and Decorative Arts in the Diplomatic Reception Rooms of the U.S. Department of State. New York: H.N. Abrams, 1991.