Dr. Pell was an Episcopal clergyman and art connoisseur who formed a large collection of porcelain between 1875 and 1924. For many years he and Mrs Pell displayed these treasures at their New York City residence. Dr. Pell's extensive inventory records the purchase of several pieces of this service in 1905, and it reveals that he made purchases from some of the most celebrated antique dealers of the day including the Duveen Brothers, from whom he acquired this plate, and acquired pieces from thirty-five other dealers. A large part of Dr. Pell's porcelain collection was gifted to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, the Art Institute, Chicago, the St. Louis Museum, the Smithsonian Institute, Washington D.C. and the Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford. For a plate from this service in the Wadsworth Atheneum which was part of Dr. Pell's gift, see Tamara Préaud, et al., The Sèvres Porcelain Manufactory, Alexandre Brongniart and the Triumph of Art and Industry, 1800-1847, Exhibition Catalogue, New York, 1997, p. 337, no. 133a.
For another plate from this service, purchased in 1987 by the British Museum, see Aileen Dawson, French Porcelain in the British Museum, London, 1994, pp. 215-217, no. 179, where the production of the service is discussed in detail. The service first appears in the factory records under the title 'service Leguay' in 1806 when it was at the decorating stage. The plates were described as 'marli beau bleu riche frise d'or figures tirées de Fragonard, Landon, etc. en bronze rehaussé en or fond caillouté'. The 'marbled' ground in the well is called 'fond agathe' in the factory records and was the work of the ground painter Legros. The figure painter Le Guay was paid 19 francs 40 centimes for 'figures en brun rehaussés (or 'éclairés') d'or' on six plates from August to September 1806 and work went on until March 1808. The gilder Weydinger and his son both received 12 francs for each frize d'or from July 1806. The gilding on the border is referred to as Dorure gratée because of the incised lines showing details. The cost of applying the gilding and painting the central figures was at least 27 francs for each plate, accounting for over half the manufacturing costs.
When the service was received at the factory saleroom on 8th March 1808 the cost of production of each piece was noted and was, rather surprisingly, higher than the sale price the pieces were offered for. In total the plates cost 51.65 francs each to produce and were offered for sale at 40 francs each. Perhaps the factory was not entirely satisfied with the production of the service, or perhaps the ground colour of the wells was considered unattractive, although the borders are of the highest quality.
1. Aileen Dawson, ibid., 1994, p. 217.
2. Tamara Préaud et al., ibid., 1997, p. 338.