Pair of Vases

Made by the Tucker Factory, Philadelphia, 1826 - 1831. Painting attributed to Thomas Tucker, American, 1812 - 1890.

Made in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States, North and Central America

c. 1830

Porcelain with enamel and gilt decoration; patinated brass handles

Height (each): 21 1/8 inches (53.7 cm)

Curatorial Department:
American Art

* Gallery 101, American Art, first floor

Accession Number:

Credit Line:
Purchased with the Baugh-Barber Fund, the Thomas Skelton Harrison Fund, the Elizabeth Wandell Smith Fund, funds given in memory of Sophie E. Pennebaker, and with funds contributed by the Barra Foundation, Inc., Mrs. Henry W. Breyer, Mr. and Mrs. M. Todd Cooke, The Dietrich American Foundation, Mr. and Mrs. Anthony N. B. Garvan, the Philadelphia Savings Fund Society, and Andrew M. Rouse, 1984

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In the decades after independence from Great Britain, Philadelphians like Thomas and William Ellis Tucker took the lead artistically for the United States in the same way Athens had for the ancient world, earning the city its reputation as the “Athens of America.” The Tucker brothers’ factory, although not the first to produce the delicate material of porcelain in the New World, was the most successful in its twelve years of operation, able to withstand the high cost of labor and rival imports. These monumental vases are classical in their form, but elaborately decorated to celebrate another example of American ingenuity: Philadelphia’s Fairmount Water Works. Still standing today to the west of the Museum, this triumph of engineering brought growth to Philadelphia and the entire region by providing a reliable water supply.

Additional information:
  • PublicationPhiladelphia Museum of Art: Handbook of the Collections

    These elaborate urns painted with views of the Fairmount Waterworks (at the foot of the small hill on which the Philadelphia Museum of Art now stands) are the largest and most ornate objects produced by the first successful porcelain manufactory in the United States, which was established in Philadelphia in 1826 by the brothers William Ellis and Thomas Tucker. Although it was short-lived, the Tucker factory made a high-quality porcelain that rivaled popular French and German imports of the same date. Both brothers supervised all aspects of the company's production, although scenic decorations of this quality are generally attributed to William. The classically shaped urns, designed in imitation of Parisian porcelain, have gilded bronze handles in the form of griffins that were designed by John Frederick Sachse, a sculptor working for the Philadelphia lamp and chandelier factory of Cornelius and Company. Such close collaboration between manufacturers of domestic furnishings was uncommon during this period and rarely resulted in the successfully congruent designs that are evident here. Jack L. Lindsey, from Philadelphia Museum of Art: Handbook of the Collections (1995), p. 277.

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