This model of ewer and basin was probably first conceived by Jean-Claude Duplessis and the form was originally called pot à eau et jatte feuille d'eau. The largest première grandeur ewer was first produced in 1756 and a second slightly smaller size was produced in the following year. A third size appears to have been produced in 1758. Original plaster models for all three sizes of ewer still survive at Sèvres, but no ewers of the third and smallest size appear to have survived. Adrian Sassoon lists other known examples of the first and second size in his J. Paul Getty Museum Catalogue, Vincennes and Sèvres Porcelain, Catalogue of the Collections (Malibu, 1991), pp. 24-28, and on p. 26 he points out that the basins which are known to have survived measure between 29.1 cm. and 30.1 cm. wide, and are probably all of the first size.
It seems that only two other Sèvres 'broc et jatte feuille d'eau' of the first size are known to have survived. A pink-ground example, formerly in the collection of the Duke and Duchess of Portland, was sold by Sotheby's London on 12th June 1984, lot 213, and is now in the J. Paul Getty Museum, California. The other, a green-ground example formerly in the Grandjean Collection, is now in the Musée des Art Decoratifs, Paris, and is illustrated by Marcelle Brunet and Tamara Préaud, Sèvres, Des origines à nos jours (Fribourg, 1978), p. 150, no. 81, and in colour by Tamara Préaud and Antoine d'Albis, La Porcelaine de Vincennes (Paris, 1991), p. 129, no. 57.
Surviving records in the Sèvres archives show that only three ewers and basins of this size and type appear to have been sold before 1760. The present ewer and the basin both bear the date letter 'F' for 1758, and the December records for that year show that two '[brocs] feuilles deaux' were listed among the porcelain given by King Louis XV to Maria Theresa, the Empress of Austria. They were produced at a cost of 480 livres each, and one ewer and basin is described as having a green-ground and flower decoration, and the other as having a bleu celeste ground and flower decoration.
However, as descriptions in the records are sometimes inconsistent, caution must be exercised in identifying the present lot as one of the ones given to Maria Theresa with certainty. The Getty and Musée des Arts décoratifs examples originally cost 600 livres, and given that bleu celeste grounds were more expensive to produce than others, it could be argued that the 'Maria Theresa' ewers and basins could possibly have been of the second size as they cost 480 livres.
However, it is equally possible, and perhaps more likely, that the difference of 120 livres could be explained by the fact that elements of the decoration found on the Getty and Musée des Arts décoratifs examples are lacking from this example. The star-shaped panels of this ewer and basin are not gilded at the edge and there are other small elements of additional gilded and painted flower decoration on the other two examples which are not present on this example.
It is initially surprising that a Royal diplomatic gift of this type could have cost 480 livres rather than 600. It could be argued that the description in the Sèvres records could therefore be erroneous, but this is surely unlikely. More probable is that a reduction in cost was made because Louis was already at war with Frederick The Great, who had triggered the Seven Years War two years earlier by invading Saxony in August 1756; and also that the two ewers and basins only formed a very small part of a huge quantity of porcelain given to his ally Maria Theresa.