Soft–paste porcelain; H. with cover 12 1/2 in. (31.8 cm)
Gift of R. Thornton Wilson, in memory of Florence Ellsworth Wilson, 1950 (50.211.125a–c)
In about 1737, a small porcelain manufactory was established in the town of Villeroy by a potter named François Barbin. The factory had few employees and its production was modest, despite the patronage of the duc de Villeroy, and it closed in 1748 due to financial difficulties. Barbin and his wife reestablished the factory two years later in the nearby town of Mennecy.
The production of the new factory was more ambitious and technically successful than that of Villeroy, but the bulk of the factory's output was in small utilitarian objects made for domestic use. Like most Mennecy porcelain of the 1750s, the fountain is painted with a limited palette of enamel colors and there is no gilt decoration. The use of gilding was the privilege of the Vincennes factory, of which the king was a major shareholder.
This fountain is among the largest pieces produced by the factory. It probably was intended to contain water to be used for hand washing, and most likely was accompanied by a basin.