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D2217. Pair of Blue and White Butter Tubs, Recumbent Cow Covers and Stands

Delft, circa 1760

Each tub with a large band of floral and budding plants, repeated on the rim of the scalloped stands and in the cirkel four sprigs surrounding a floral sprig, the same band repeated on the cover and surmounted with a blue delineated recumbent cow.

Height: 13 cm. (5.1 in.); width: 18 cm. (7.1 in.)

In the middle of the eighteenth century, dining ‘à la française’ (in the French manner) was the fashion in Europe. Inspired by the French court of Louis XIV (1638-1715, reigned 1643- 1715), the serving dishes were laid out on the table symmetrically and in a very ordered way for each course. Each guest had their own set of plates and cutlery and would serve themselves from the platters, bowls or tureens within their reach. Each course provided an opportunity to display and use a variety of tablewares: plates, serving vessels and a panoply of decorative objects.

When the fashion for trompe l’oeil ceramics had spread throughout Europe in the second half of the eighteenth century, the tables of the nobility and wealthy bourgeoise were adorned with brightly colored fruits and vegetables of various shapes, or with zoomorphic objects in the form of domestic and exotic animals and birds, which gave the illusion of nature, luxuriant and animated. Small tureens and butter tubs became a specialty of the Delftware factories in the Netherlands in the second half of the eighteenth century. Naturalistically modeled as birds, animals, fruit and vegetables, often with accompanying stands molded with foliage, these tureens and butter tubs were often the centerpiece on the table. Tureens, platters, and fruits were designed to complement the various courses: large tureens for soup, stew or ragout; butter tubs and smaller tureens for sauces and creams.

Farm and domestic animals, such as cows, horses and goats, were among the most prolific animal figures in both white and polychrome Delftware. Tureens like the present pair must have made imaginative centerpieces on a dinner table. It therefore must have been a special pleasure to be the guest at a dinner party given by a prosperous family in the eighteenth century. With the invitation came the anticipation of a veritable feast for the senses: a gustatory treat to taste the beautifully prepared and perhaps exotic foods, and a visual treat in their presentation and in the table setting itself.

A similar blue and white butter tub with a recumbent cow on its cover is illustrated in Lavino 2002, p. 143, and another one marked for De Metaale Pot (The Metal Pot) factory is on p. 163, nowadays housed in the Kunstmuseum, The Hague.

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