MADAME DU BARRY AND THE 'SCEAUX CRENELLES'
On the 11th and 12th April 1769, Madame du Barry purchased the first part of a porcelain service in bleu celeste from the Svres manufactory, comprising:- 20 assiettes fleurs 36 livres pice, 16 assiettes oiseaux 39 livres, 2 sceaux demi bouteille 144 livres, 2 sceaux bouteilles 192 livres
4 sceaux verre fleurs 144 livres.
Finally, on the 29 September 1769, the Svres Manufactory delivered two sceaux crnels fleurs 144 livres to complete the service. These latter sceaux crnles fleurs are the only ones recorded in the Svres archives for the year 1769, and as this date corresponds directly with the date letter displayed on the French & Co. sceau, this latter would seem to be one of the pair supplied as part of Madame du Barry's service in 1769. Delivered to Louveciennes, Madame du Barry's chteau constructed by the architect Ledoux in 1770-71, the service was seized during the Revolution and reserved for future sale by the Revolutionary government in 1793.
Denis Lev is recorded at Vincennes and Svres as a painter specializing in flowers between 1754-1793 and 1795-1805. The repareur's mark of an incised 5 appears on pieces dating from 1753-1790, including other sceaux 'crenells' (Rosalind Savill, The Wallace Collection, Catalogue of Svres Porcelain, London, 1988, vol. III, p. 1127).
LAZARE DUVAUX, MARCHANDS-BIJOUTIER
The fashion for dessert-baskest filled with Vincennes porcelain flowerheads was no doubt initiated by the marchand-bijoutier Lazare Duvaux. As his Livre Journal reveals, as early as December 1749, Duvaux sold to madame Caze une grande corbeille de porcelaine, monte en bronze dor d'or moulu, remplie de branchages de laiton verni sur lesquels des fleurs de Vincennes assorties a chaques espece, prix fait 1,500l, and this was repeated again in the following year when he sold to Monsieur le Cte. de Forcalquier, une corbeille de fleurs de Vincennes, 360l.. As Courajod concluded in the Livre-journal de Lazare Duvaux, marchand bijoutier ordinaire do roy 1748-1758, Paris, 1873, Duvaux was at the forefront of fashion not only in devising new ways of using these flowers, which by 1748 represented five-sixths of the Vincennes production, but also in making a speciality of associating porcelain of all kinds with gilt bronze.
A closely related Svres basket with date letter for 1763, painted by Aloncle, was included in the sale of the collection of M. Edouard Chappey, Paris, Galerie Georges Petit, 27-31 March, 1907, lot 1135. A further related baskets of porcelaine de saxe or Meissen, also probably supplied by Lazare Duvaux, was illustrated in L.H. Roth, Ed., J. Pierpont Morgan, Collector, Wadsworth, 1987, no.58, pp.160-1, whilst a further Meissen porcelain example was sold anonymously at Christie's London, 20 June 1985, lot 16.
MADAME DU BARRY
Born Jeanne Bcu in 1746 to a poor woman living in Vaucouleurs, Madame du Barry caused a sensation in France and Europe by becoming the last mistress of Louis XV. Apprenticed in a milliner's shop, her considerable beauty attracted the attention of the Parisian beau-monde and, eventually, the adventurer and professional gambler Jean du Barry. Du Barry brought her to the attention of the ageing King, who had been without an official mistress since the death of the Marquise de Pompadour.
Louis XV became instantly besotted with the 22 year old and was determined to install her as his matresse en titre at Versailles. In order to accomplish this, she was married to du Barry's brother, comte Guillaume du Barry, who was paid off handsomely, and she was finally presented at Court on 22 April 1769 - 10 days afer her purchase of this service. Falsely maligned for interfering in affairs of State, she rapidly became one of the most important patrons of the arts in the 1770's, making significant purchases of sumptuous porcelain-mounted furniture from the marchand-mercier Poirier, both for her appartments at Versailles and her Pavilion at Louveciennes. After Louis XV's death in 1774, his grandson, Louis XVI obliged Madame du Barry to retire to Louveciennes, where she lived relatively quietly until her arrest and eventual execution at the hands of the Revolutionary government on 7 December 1793.