Jean-Nicolas Le Bel, painter of flowers and patterns at Sèvres from 1765-93.
Etienne-Henry Le Guay, painter and gilder specializing in friezes at Vincennes and Sèvres 1748-49 and 1751-96.
The present pair of plates, painted in the parasol Chinois pattern recorded in the Sèvres album of plate designs as pattern no. 134, are likely to be among those originally made for the noted English collector William Beckford. The factory sales records note two purchases in the name of 'Milford Betfort' (sic), now presumed to be mis-spelling of Beckford's name -- one on 13 March 1792 for 72 plates at cost of 33 livres each, and one on 23 November 1792 at a slightly higher cost of 39 livres each. The date letter marking system used at Sèvres was not based on a calendar year starting in January, hence the date letter for 1793 found on all of the plates presumed to comprise these orders (Sèvres register Vy10).
From 1791-93, Beckford lived in Paris on the rue de Grenelle, buying up huge quantities of works of art in post-revolutionary Paris. These he installed at his newly built Gothic revival house, Fonthill Abbey. Unfortunately, by 1822 excessive spending on building and furnishing the house coupled with a reduction in revenue from plantation holdings in the Caribbean forced him to place his beloved home and Collection on the market. An auction was to have been conducted by Christie's. However, at the last moment the event was cancelled and a private sale to Joh Farquar for 300,000 pounds arranged, with Beckford retaining his favorite and most important pieces for his new home in Bath.
The disposition of the 120 parasol Chinois plates cannot be determined with certainty. However, when Mr. Phillips subsequently auctioned the remaining contents of Fonthill Abbey in 1823, having undercut Christie's commission, several lots of Sèvres porcelain were offered. Included were a set of twenty-four plates and three matching sets of twelve plates each, but with no descriptive information as to the decoration. It is likely that at least some of these were painted with pattern no. 134. When Beckford died in 1844, the works of art remaining in his still impressive Collection were bequeathed to his daughter, the Duchess of Hamilton. Thirty-eight years later, Christie's sold the contents of Hamilton Palace in an extraordinary sale of 2,213 lots, not one of which was a set of Sèvres plates.
Over the years, various sets of parasol Chinois plates, all with date letter PP for 1793, have appeared on the market. The Executors of the Earl of Sefton sold twelve in 1973. Purchased by Partridge Fine Arts, they were sold on to the noted couturier Christian Dior. These twelve plus others from the same service were acquired by Sir William J.H. Plumb from Robert Williams who in turn is likely to have purchased them after the unsuccessful Christie's sale. A single plate from among those offered at Christie's was subsequently sold at Sotheby's, New York, 25 October 1991, lot 387. Twelve plates from this same New England collection, were sold 5 May 1999, lot 75.