Historical Highlights

The House Acceptance of the Sèvres Vases from France

September 13, 1918
The House Acceptance of the Sèvres Vases from France Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives
About this object
The Sèvres vases stand at nearly 67 inches high and are displayed in the Rayburn Room of the Capitol.
On this date, the House of Representatives considered and referred to committee a letter from Jules Jusserand, the French Ambassador, offering a gift of two Sèvres vases. The vases were offered to express France’s “sisterly gratitude for America’s timely help” in World War I and, more specifically, the U.S. Congress’s reception of the Viviani-Joffre mission and their official request for assistance. The House accepted the gift but, unlike the Senate, was unable to schedule an official acceptance ceremony. The vases are excellent examples of the luxurious, high quality ceramics produced in France in the Art Nouveau style between the 1880s and 1910s. Standing nearly six feet tall, the coordinating pair was made at the Sèvres manufactory, a state-run facility in operation since 1740. In addition to their exceptional size, the vases also have a distinctive crystalline glaze, a difficult technique developed in France in the 19th century. The unpredictable nature of the glazing method makes each piece unique. The multicolored, iridescent, frost-like patterns that cascade down the surfaces of the vases were created by mixing zinc oxide and quartz crystals into the glaze, and then firing the stoneware pieces at extremely high heat. The resulting random patterns successfully reflect the nature-inspired forms and organic aesthetic of the Art Nouveau style.

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