While reading the catalogue for the Getty Museum’s current exhibition, “Taking Shape, Finding Sculpture in the Decorative Arts,” we came across a drawing by Franz Xaver Habermann for a “Rococo Design,” now in the National Gallery of Scotland (figure 1). Habermann’s drawing is unmistakably related to a vase in our collection from Potsdam, circa 1735 (figure 2).
Rococo motifs, initially based on the shell, from which characteristic scrolling of C- and S-curve designs developed, were widely circulated in ornamental prints. “That some prints functioned as designs for objects suggests [a] transformative process, one that moves from two-dimensional images to three-dimensional objects…Rococo forms circulating through ornamental prints often served as inspiration for small scale sculpture.”1
The curves and textures of the present vase keep the eyes moving so that it appears almost as an animate object, one of the essential features of Rococo design which “pushed metamorphosis beyond reproducing the look of nature to imitating its vital force.”2
1. Sheriff, Mary D. “Seeing Metamorphosis in Sculpture and the Decorative Arts.” Taking Shape: Finding Sculpture in the Decorative Arts. Los Angeles: Getty Publications, 2009. 164.