Imari porcelain sauceboat engraved with the Arenberg family’s coat of arms

This sublime sauceboat in Imari porcelain, decorated with Rococo-style silver and engraved with the Arenberg family’s coat of arms is unique. The Brussels silversmith Petrus Josephus Fonson created the work in 1760, as a commission from the Duke of Arenberg. This little marvel is an example of the French Rococo style in the Austrian Netherlands and it bears witness to the importation of porcelain and nobility culture during the 18th century. It was acquired by the Comte Thierry de Looz-Corswarem Fund, managed by the King Baudouin Foundation, and is on show at the DIVA (the Museum for Diamonds, Jewellery and Silver) in Antwerp.

Accessible to the general public

The King Baudouin Foundation was able to acquire this exceptional work thanks to the Comte Thierry de Looz-Corswarem Fund, which aims to protect moveable Belgian cultural heritage for the benefit of the country’s public collections. To this end, the Fund has as its mission to acquire important masterpieces, works and documents (from 1550 to 1850) that are of significance to the history of Belgium. The Fund acquired this piece of Imari porcelain in 2024 and then entrusted it to the DIVA Museum in Antwerp so that the general public could also enjoy it. In the DIVA Museum, this exceptional object sits alongside porcelain made by Georg Christoph Lindemann (c. 1735-1780) and silverware made by Leonard Joseph Ferrier (b.1726), enabling a link to be made with an Imari porcelain ewer decorated with silver mounting in 1762 in Audenaerde, in the workshop of Marie-Jeanne Husson. This work was also acquired by the Comte Thierry de Looz-Corswarem Fund.

A rare example of Imari porcelain mounted in silver

Japanese Imari porcelain mounted in silver is extremely rare because the silversmith needs enormous talent and experience, since he must be able to adapt his technique to the particular shape of the porcelain. Petrus Josephus Fonson (1713-1799) was specialised in making silver mounts of this type for Chinese and Japanese porcelain.

A sauceboat for the Arenberg family

Resting on a circular silver foot, the sauceboat in Imari porcelain (dating from the first quarter of the 18th century) has an upper edge in silver and bears two handles and two pouring spouts decorated with shells and rocaille. The singularity of this piece lies in the fact that it can be attributed to a member of the nobility, the Arenberg family. The family’s coat of arms is engraved beneath one of the pouring spouts, with a representation on red of three golden medlar flowers, pierced in the centre and barbed with green. The silver mount was made in Brussels in 1760 by Petrus Josephus Fonson, silversmith to the court. The foot bears several hallmarks, including the silversmith’s own of a dolphin (?) between the initials F.S., the City of Brussels hallmark (Saint Michael slaying the dragon and a crowned lion), and the date (60). The sauceboat was probably acquired by Charles-Marie-Raymond d’Arenberg (1721-1778), son of Léopold Philippe d’Arenberg (1690-1754) and Marie-Françoise Pignatelli (1696-1766), and husband of Louise-Marguerite de la Marck-Schleiden (1730-1820).

Rococo in the Austrian Netherlands

This sauceboat is a magnificent illustration of the qualitative assimilation by the Austrian Netherlands of the French Rococo style. The elegant motif of foliage, chrysanthemums and plum tree branches, which decorate the red, blue and golden Imari porcelain, blends harmoniously with the chased silver mount.

Petrus Josephus Fonson

Petrus Josephus Fonson came from a family of sculptors and silversmiths in Mons. From 1739-40, he completed his training as a silversmith in Brussels, notably with Lambert Millé, one of the talented representatives of the Rococo style in the Austrian Netherlands. Thanks to engravings that were in circulation in Millé’s workshop at this time, Petrus Josephus Fonson would have known and interpreted the models that were in fashion at the French court. Silverwork was pushed to the limit of elegance and the Rococo style, characterised by the fantasy of its lines and scrolls of shells, was perfectly suited to this. In 1745, Petrus Josephus Fonson was accepted as a master silversmith in Brussels and he soon made a name for himself as such in aristocratic circles.

A prestigious clientele

The Age of Enlightenment was a period of refinement and was marked by the development of trade with the colonies by the large maritime companies, which brought new products to Europe, including porcelain, silk and tea, as well as a taste for exoticism and new missions. In 1748, the Duke of Arenberg, who was Captain General of Hainaut and Marshal of Austria, placed a commission of cutlery, a meat plate and plates in silver from Petrus Josephus Fonson, who was by now a master like no other in assembling Japanese and Chinese porcelain. In 1755, he made a number of porcelain sauceboats mounted in vermeil and a table centrepiece for Charles de Lorraine, Governor General of the Austrian Netherlands in Brussels. These are now exhibited at the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna.


Material / technique: 
Silver and Imari porcelain
H 11 cm x L 19 cm
Type of acquisition: 
Acquired by the Comte Thierry de Looz-Corswarem Fund
Year of acquisition: 
Depository institution: 
DIVA, Antwerp