Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Tureens: for Soup to Flowers

While visiting Winterthur to see the Downton Abbey exhibit, I took a detour to the Dorrance Gallery to see the Campbell Soup Company's collection of tureens. John T. Dorrance, Jr., company chairman, and W.B. Murphy, president of Campbell's, began to collect tureens in 1966. Over the years, they chose tureens based on craftsmanship, form, and history. By the early 1990's they decided to relocate their treasures to Winterthur.

 Below are photos I took of the amazing display.

Many of the tureens on display at Winterthur are silver. Some are very baroque; others are more contemporary. 

The tureen below was the first one acquired by Dorrance. It displays the coat of arms of George Washington's maternal family. 

In addition to embellishing the bowl of the tureen, silversmiths created elaborate lids. The pair below are topped with flora...

others with fauna. (Click on the picture below to see a larger view of this elaborate finial, a bear surrounded by hounds.)

Handles and feet were also part of the design. Dolphins support this silver tureen which was made in Russia in 1766. 

Although the tureen had humble beginnings as a bowl for serving a one-dish meal, during the reign of Louis XIV in France it evolved into an ornate symbol of wealth.
Each foot of this tureen is resting atop a turtle.                          
Some tureens are presented on a matching tray.

while others were made to stand alone.

How fun would it be to ladle turtle soup out of this tureen?

Beside the shiny silver tureens are many lovely porcelain examples. I loved the whimsical reclining fawn finial on this ceramic piece.

This blue and white masterpiece is topped with a perfect pear.

Somehow a frog found his way to the top of this cabbage.

Here a tiny bird is feasting on fruit and vegetables.

According to Patricia Halfpenny, former collections director at Winterthur, before Louis IV's day, soup was often the primary meal served. In that era, it was sipped communally from a simple bowl with handles. As soup gained popularity as a first course in high society, the tureen evolved into something more elaborate. Can't you imagine a hunting party coming into a castle's banquet hall and being served soup from this boar's head tureen?

As ceramic transfer ware manufacturing became popular the tureen began to be used by the growing middle class.  
Blue-printed pattern on tureen attributed to Joseph Stubbs of Staffordshire, England , circa 1825-30. Photo from Antiques and the Arts Weekly.

My personal favorites are the white, tone-on-tone, tureens.

Which would you choose?  And what would you put in your tureen? 

I conjecture that the tureen of Louis IV's day has evolved once again and is most often used today as a centerpiece, rather than for serving soup. Whatever their use, tureens certainly are lovely containers for anything from soup to flowers.

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