Sensual Vase

Pierre-Adrien Dalpayrat

9h x 6.30w in


c. 1900


Inventory Number: DAP080

Size: 19h x 6.30w in

Year Made: c. 1900

Status: Available 

Utterly perfect in form and glaze, Sensual Vase shows Dalpayrat at the height of his artistic power. Whereas the tall cylindrical body is likely inspired by Japanese cloisonné enamels, the pinched neck suggests the casual potting of Japanese folk ceramics. The stylized shoulder, however, is pure Dalpayrat, adding a dash of Art Nouveau style to an otherwise japonist masterpiece. 

Marks: Inscribed AD Dalpayrat, impressed 25


Born in Limoges in 1844, Pierre-Adrien Dalpayrat took classes at the drawing school of Limoges and specialized in porcelain painting at the Ecole Pratique Municipale de Peinture sur Porcelaine.[i]  After his training, he was hired by Jules Vieillard & Cie, an important ceramic manufacturer based in Bordeaux. There, he married Marie Tallerie in 1866 and they had their first two sons, Albert-Joseph in 1869 and Adolphe in 1871. After two years in Bordeaux, the couple returned to Limoges, where their third son, Hippolyte, was born. Dalpayrat worked for one of the Limoges factories for a short period of time, and was then hired as an earthenware decorator in Fouque & Ashwin’s factory (Saint-Gaudens and Toulouse, Haute-Garonne) where he worked until the early 1880s. After a year as a decorator at Leon Sazerat’s factory back in Limoges, he left for Monte Carlo (south of France) in 1882, where he directed the decoration workshop of a factory. He then took over the direction of another factory in Menton. After a few years there and some financial difficulties, he went back to Limoges where he worked again for Sazerat. However, he became increasingly interested in the potential of stoneware and started experimenting with the material to start his own production.

In 1889, at age forty-five, Dalpayrat left his native region for Paris and settled in Bourg-la-Reine, in the southern suburbs of Paris. Two years later he met the sculptor Alphonse Voisin-Delacroix and the painter Jean-Adolphe Chudant, who leased him an old ceramic factory.[ii] In January 1892, Dalpayrat and Voisin-Delacroix created a partnership and agreed on a contract: the sculptor would create new shapes, and Dalpayrat would be in charge of the clay, the colors, the glaze and the firing. In addition, the Dalpayrat stated he would never “hire any other artists other than the decorators he might need,” which made Voisin-Delacroix the principal sculptor in the factory.

During the first months of 1892, Dalpayrat worked on improving the processes to obtain the flamed oxblood red, for which he soon became renowned. In May he exhibited his first flamed stoneware pieces at the Third Salon of the Societe Nationale des Beaux-Arts.  In December 1892 the partners exhibited their works--about fifty pieces of stoneware--at Galerie Georges Petit. The exhibition was extensively commented on by art critics: “It is a revelation […] a party for the eyes and a shock for the mind. Oh! How fabulous is stoneware as a material! Imagine an alchemist who could, in one of these magical crucibles, mix the most splendid colors of nature […] And all of these […] seem to animate with a miraculous and splendid life the vases, the animals, the crabs, the starfish that the fanciful hand of the potter has shaped with stoneware.” [iii]The exhibition was so successful it was held annually until 1898.  Sales were promising: the French state acquired two vases for the Musée du Luxembourg and the Union centrale des arts décoratifs also bought one.

Alphonse Voisin-Delacroix, however, died suddenly in April 1893, while preparations were underway for the fourth Salon at the Champ-de-Mars and the Columbian Exposition in Chicago.  Despite this, Dalpayrat participated in both and was awarded a bronze medal in Chicago. With the financial help of Adèle Lesbros, a relative of Voisin-Delacroix, Dalpayrat formed a new business under the name “Dalpayrat & A. Lesbros”. His three oldest sons, Albert, Adolphe, and Hippolyte, formed the core working team. Albert, the oldest, trained as a sculptor, was soon seen as the successor to his father. Adolphe was more of a technician, proficient in firing and maintaining the kilns. In addition, a few other workers were employed at the factory.

The specific type of red obtained by Dalpayrat offered dozens of variations, from purple to brown, from blue to green, all the colors sometimes appearing on the same piece. The ceramist continued to use the shapes and molds perfected by Voisin-Delacroix, but also introduced new shapes, either classical or Japanese in inspiration. Dalpayrat also collaborated with several prominent sculptors and designers during this period including Jean Coulon who designed the pitcher “La Nuit,” Maurice Dufrêne, George de Feure, James Vibert, and Constantin Meunier.  

This vase was certainly designed and fired during the last years of the nineteenth century as its shape and glaze are typical of the pieces made at that time. While the overall form borrows its inspiration from Japanese art, a closer look reveals the potter’s personal involvement in the creative process. The pinched neck, formed by strong yet precise fingers on the soft clay, elegantly breaks the harmony of the streamlined body and is reinforced by the lighter tones that contrasting with the black and deep red on the vase’s body. It is not common to find multiple dripping layers of glaze on a Dalpayrat vase; the liquid state of the glaze, as if frozen in the kiln, seems to either mimic dripping blood or the lava from an erupting volcano. The deep red flecked with blue flambé creates a vibrant surface.

At the turn of the twentieth century, Dalpayrat was an active participant in the renewal of the ceramic arts. His pieces were sold at prominent venues like Siegfried Bing’s “L’Art nouveau” and Julius Meier-Graefe’s “La Maison Moderne.”  He exhibited all over Europe: in Brussels at the annual exhibitions of “La Libre Esthétique,” London at the Grafton Galleries, Antwerp, Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Berlin, Dresden and Budapest. Dalpayrat’s grès were sold by Louis C. Tiffany in New York and O’Brien & Son in Chicago. French and foreign museums, including the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, the Kunstgewerbemuseum in Berlin, Brussels’ Royal Museums of Art and History and the Kunstindustrimuseet in Copenhagen, added his works to their collections.  Named Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur on August 16th 1900, Dalpayrat also won a gold medal at the Paris Exposition Universelle that year.  In many ways, these achievements represented the pinnacle of his career and the height of public adulation. 

In spite of the firm’s success, the decade following his recognition was chaotic as his sons left the business to pursue other opportunities. Adolphe relocated to Mexico in 1901 to take over a ceramic factory and was joined by one of his brothers, Henri.  Unfortunately, Albert failed in succeeding his father in 1903 and the following year a new company “Dalpayrat & Cie” founded with Paul Petit was unsuccessful. On a decision taken by Albert in 1903, pieces now carried the semi-circular mark “Les Grands feux de Dalpayrat” and production later continued under the name “Dalpayrat Frères & Cie”.  Despite acclaim for their participation in the fifteenth Salon at the Grand Palais in 1905, the kilns stopped firing in 1906.  The company was formally dissolved on April 20, 1907 and taken over by Lionel Genty. Adrien Dalpayrat retired in his native city, Limoges, where he devoted his time to painting. His death on August 10th 1910, at the age of sixty-six, did not mark the end of the family’s engagement with stoneware, however as Adolphe Dalpayrat continued to produce oxblood red ceramics and diversified the production until his death in 1934.


[i] Dalpyarat’s biography is well-documented.  See, for instance: Horst Makus, Adrien Dalpayrat: Adrien Dalpayrat, 1844-1910: französische Jugendstil-Keramik : Kunst aus dem Feuer = céramique française de l'Art nouveau : art du feu (Stuttgart : Arnoldsche, c1998); Pierre-Adrien Dalpayrat, 1844-1910 : céramiste de l'art nouveau / étude biographique par André Dalpayrat (Sceaux : Musée de l'Ile-de-France, 1999).

[ii] Arielle Guillaume, et al., Alphonse Voisin-Delacroix. Ou quand un sculpteur rencontre un céramiste 1892-1893 (Besançon: Musée des Beaux-Arts et d’Archéologie, 1993).

[iii] Judex, “Chronique et nouvelles du mois,” Revue des Arts Décoratifs 13 (1892): 220.


Francois-Josef Graf, France


Model illustrated in Makus, Horst, Adrien Dalpayrat, 1844-1910: französische Jugendstil-K eramik (Stuttgart: Arnoldsche, 1998), 101, 117.



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