Ice creams and water ices evolved in Italy in the second half of the seventeenth century. Initially they were a high-status luxury confined to court entertainments. Serving ices at table was not easy, as they had to be kept in a frozen state. Eventually, attractive three-part tin-glazed earthenware vessels called seaux à glace started to appear in France in the 1720s. Only a few of these faïence examples have survived, the earliest from Rouen dating from 1700-1725. Another from Moustiers made in the Clérissey manufactory dates from circa 1725.
In order to keep the contents frozen, ice mixed with salt needed to be placed in the lower pail and the lid, with the ice cream contained in a bowl between. However, earthenware was not an ideal material for this purpose. It is likely that salt eventually found its way through any crazing in the glaze and was absorbed by the porous clay body, resulting in the glaze flaking off. Soft-paste and later hard-paste porcelain proved to be a much more durable material for making these beautiful vessels. The Sèvres manufactory based their porcelain seaux on the earlier faïence shapes, but developed a range of new forms closely allied to their own wine cooler designs. At first other European factories based their designs on the Sèvres model.
In this illustrated Zoom lecture, Ivan Day will not only outline the development of these wonderful vessels, but demonstrate how they were used with an example from his collection.
Ivan Day is an independent historian of the social history and culture of food. He is celebrated for his reconstructions of historical table settings, which combine museum objects with accurate re-creations of period dishes. His work has been exhibited in many major museums in the UK, Europe, and North America, including the Getty Research Institute, Detroit Institute of Arts, Gardiner Museum, and Minneapolis Institute of Arts. In 2007, he worked on a re-creation of an imperial table featuring a Meissen Parnassus by Johann Joachim Kändler for the BGC exhibition Fragile Diplomacy: Meissen Porcelain for European Courts, ca. 1710–63, curated by Maureen Cassidy-Geiger.
Seau à Glace, Tasses à Glace sur un Plateau, Seau à Bouteille (ice pail or fruit cooler, ice cups on a stand, and a wine bottle cooler). Sèvres factory, soft-paste porcelain from the service presented to Prince Starhemberg in 1766. Courtesy Waddesdon Manor, Buckinghamshire, UK.