Painting trompe l'oeil cameos in the manner of antique hardstone cameos had been attempted at Sèvres in the 18th century, but was only convincingly mastered under Alexandre Brongniart's Directorship of the manufactory. His training as a mineralogist could well have influenced the refinement of this technique of producing cameos in imitation of sardonyx, agate, carnelian and other hard stones. Cameos also had a particular appeal for Napoleon, and he ordered vases and services painted with them. Two services painted by Degault with figures from antiquity and each bearing the same name, service 'Iconographique', were ordered by Napoleon; the first was delivered in 1811 to Napoleon's uncle, Cardinal Fesch, the second was delivered to 'the court of Rome' in September 1819.
Cameos were well adapted for Imperial propaganda, and lent an antique 'authenticity' to depictions of France's rulers. In order to achieve the greatest accuracy and authenticity possible, the sources of the designs were chosen with the greatest care. In 1811, Brongniart even went to the lengths of requesting the second edition of the book (three volumes) on which Napoleon had placed an embargo in order that he could give them away as gifts. Brogniart wrote to Comte Daru (Intendant Général de la Maison de l'Empereur) explaining that Ennio-Quirino Visconti's Iconographie grecque was 'indispensable to the factory; it would be inexcusable for me to allow errors to be made in the execution of any portraits published in this collection'. Five years earlier, during the preparation of the designs for the porcelain Table des Grands Capitaines, he had been ordered to obtain suitable models from Visconti (the curator of the antiquities at the Louvre). Visconti had sent cameos, medals, drawings and engravings of the relevant Commanders and these were used as a basis for the simulated cameos of twelve military Commanders of antiquity which were painted on its top about a central cameo of Alexander the Great, see Geoffrey de Bellaigue, French Porcelain in the Collection of Her Majesty the Queen, London, 2009, Volume III, pp. 1062-1078, no. 305, for a full discussion of the table and illustrations of the portraits.
Jean-Marie Degault (active at Sèvres 1808-1817) and Louis-Bertin Parant were the two painters at Sèvres who specialised in painting simulated cameos of this type. Vallon, the painter who executed these portraits of Charles X and his wife continued the tradition and may have worked under Degault or Parant, using some of the same sources as inspiration. There is a very closely related simulated cameo portrait of Charles X, wearing uniform, and set in an identical frame as the pair in the present lot in the collection of the Musée national de Céramique de Sèvres, acquisition no. MNC 6391.