The Borghese Service, comprising 500 silver-gilt objects primarily by the French Imperial silversmith Martin-Guillaume Biennais and over 1,000 pieces of table silver, was traditionally thought to have been a gift from Napoleon to his second sister Pauline Bonaparte (1780-1825) on the occasion of her 1803 marriage to Prince Camillo Borghese (1775-1832). However, Biennais inscribed a number of pieces "Orfe de Lrs. .tis. Imperiales et Royales" indicating that most of the service post-dates 1805, when Napoleon was styled King of Italy. In addition, many of the French pieces have Paris hallmarks for 1809-1819.
Pauline Borghese's marriage was an unhappy union. She spent most of her time in Paris, until the fall of Napoleon, when she returned to Rome and took up residence in the Borghese Palace. She joined her husband in Florence shortly before her early death in 1825. In the 1820s, Florentine and Roman silversmiths contributed to the service by following the original Biennais models. The later additions may have been ordered by both spouses, as the service was split between Rome and Florence.
In 1892 the entire service was offered as one lot at the sale of contents of the Borghese Palace. After changing hands three times, the service became part of the collection of Edith Rockefeller McCormick and was exhibited in its entirety at the Art Institute of Chicago from 1924-1932. Upon Mrs. McCormick's death, American Art Association/Anderson Galleries sold the service in 150 lots. Widely scattered today, the Borghese service is found in numerous public collections including the Louvre and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.