Made at Sèvres Manufactory (France), Painted by Antoine Caton (French, active 1749–1797), Painted by Charles Buteux, l'aîné (French, active 1756–1782), Gilder Etienne-Henri Le Guay aîné, père (French, 1719-1799, active at Sèvres 1742–43, 1748–49, 1751–96)
Overall: 71.1 cm (28 in.)
Medium or Technique
Soft-paste porcelain with polychrome enamels and gold
Ann and William Elfers Gallery (Gallery 245)
Dark blue ground, with reserves painted with scenes from the life of Belisarius. Military trophy depicted in reserve on bac.
Depicted on this vase and its pair, also in the MFA’s collection, are episodes from the life of Belisarius (about 505-565). A celebrated general under the Byzantine emperor Justinian, Belisarius was falsely accused of conspiracy, disgraced, and blinded. A popular subject in eighteenth-century French painting and literature, his story illustrated fortitude in the face of adversity and the transience of fame.
1788/9, probably the pair of vases recorded in the Cabinet de Conseil of Louis XVI at the Château of Versailles, France [see note 1]. December 22, 1791, transferred to the Tuileries Palace, Paris. 1794-1796, acquired as a pair in Paris by James Swan, Boston, MA [see note 2]; after 1796, with his wife Hepzibah Clark Swan (d. 1825), Dorchester, MA; 1825, after her death, one of the vases, by inheritance to their daughter, Mrs. John T. Sargent (d. 1867) [see note 3]; 1868, sold posthumously at Leonard's, Boston, and bought by Francis Jaques; by inheritance to his daughter Helen L. Jaques; after her death, by inheritance to her heirs; 1938, gift of the heirs of Helen L. Jaques to the MFA. (Accession Date: April 14, 1938)
 This pair of vases is most probably the pair listed in a porcelain inventory of the Château of Versailles, 1788/9, now at Archives Nationales, Paris, see M. Brunet and T. Préaud, "Sèvres, des origines à nos jours"  James Swan was a merchant established in Paris, and was appointed an official agent for the purchase of supplies in the United States in 1794 by the French Government. His partner was Johann-Caspar Schweizer, a Swiss. According to Howard Rice, the French Government placed at his disposal luxury goods to be exchanged in America for food supplies and war materials. The Swan and Schweizer agency shipped these articles to the United States between 1794-1795, where much of it was sold. However, this piece was among those that Swan kept for his personal use. See H. Rice, "James Swan, Agent of the French Republic 1794-1796" The New England Quarterly, Vol. X, No. 3, Sept. 1937, p. 464-486.  See MFA object, Acc. No. 27.534a-b.
Gift of the heirs of Helen L. Jaques