The complex construction and decoration of this pair of vases reveal the level of skill achieved by the craftsmen employed at the Sèvres porcelain manufactory. Each vase is divided into three sections: a base with holes for flowering bulbs, a tall body with pierced shoulders for potpourri, and a pierced lid. Painted ripples along the base and waves that project up the body, simulating cascades of water, give these vases their name of pot pourri fontaine. Charles-Nicolas Dodin, who painted the Chinese figures on the sides, copied them from Chinese woodcuts of about 1700.
These vases once formed part of a garniture owned by Madame de Pompadour, mistress of Louis XV. An inventory taken after her death in 1764 mentions that the garniture was displayed on the mantelpiece in her bedroom. The set was accompanied by matching porcelain wall lights, a pair of candelabra, and a potpourri vase (vaisseau à mat), both now in the Musée du Louvre.