The present vase is one of a pair painted with cameo portraits of the explorers Jean de Bethencourt and La Perouse, the original drawing for which is retained at the factory's archive (Section F SI, 1840, no 3). Described in the Sèvres archives in the list of works for 1831 as vase no 16, titled Les Navigateurs and described as "2 vases Médicis 3e grd. fond brun pourpre cameo LA PEROUSE Décor attributive or et platine", the pair entered the factory saleroom on 4 August 1840 with a production cost noted of 561,35 francs each and with a proposed selling price of 650 francs each or 1300 francs for the pair (VV folio 74, no 22). In August 1848, the pair is recorded as delivered to the prefect for the lower Seine basin at the request of the minister of Agriculture and Commerce (VBB11).
Jean de Bethencourt (1360-1425) whose cameo portrait graces the front of the present vase, was a navigator from Normandy who served as chamberlain to Charles VI of France. It was Bethencourt who explored the islands off the coast of East Africa now known as the Canary Islands, bringing Christianity and a European presence to the isolated outpost. In 1404, he departed for the last time, leaving his nephew in his stead as governor.
Joseph Ferdinand Regnier (1802-1870) was active as a painter at Sèvres 1836-1870. Specializing in historical subjects and in decorative ornament, he studied painting under M.J. Blondel from 1826-1830, exhibiting as an artist at the Paris Salons of 1827, 1835 and 1836.
Navigators and naval scientists named on panels above the shoulder of the vase include René de Goulène de Ladonnière (1510-1568), an explorer and colonizer of Florida; Baron de St Just Demonts de Poutrincourt, born in 1557 and an explorer of the New World into the 17th century; Charles Pierre Cariel, comte de Fleurieu (1738-1810), a sailor since the age of fourteen who became minister of the Navy and later a senator and intendant général for Napoleon I; Amédée François Frezier (1682-1773), a marine engineer and founding member of the Navy Academy; Jean René Antoine, marquis de Verdun de la Grenne (1741-1805) who embarked on several expeditions traveling from the Cape Verde Islands, to the Antilles in the Caribbean, to the Faröe Islands during which newly developed marine instruments were tested; and Jacques, vicomte de Grenier (1736-1806), a naval tactician and nautical scientist who at the time of his death was working on wind and tidal currents.