These plates are thought to have once formed part of a service made for Frederick the Great. In the 1930's a large portion of a service, of identical design to the present lot, was given by the German Government to Randolph Hearst, and this subsequently passed into the Paula de Koenigsberg Collection, Buenos Aires. Fifty-eight of these pieces were sold in these Rooms on 28th November 1977, lots 88-119, of which these plates were not a part. Many of the lots bore punckt marks, and many did not, and the true origin of those pieces, and the present lot, is still unclear. In November 1762, Frederick the Great is known to have ordered another service with animals from Meissen during his occupation of Dresden (see Rainer Rückert, Meissner Porzellan [Munich, 1966], no. 472, pl. 117), but this 'Japanese Service' is very different.
A very similar service was given by King Augustus III to the British Envoy, Sir Charles Hanbury Williams, in 1747. Many pieces from the service, along with a variety of engraved sources, are illustrated by T.H. Clarke in two articles, 'Das Northumberland-service aus Meissener Porzellan', Keramos, October 1975, no. 70, pp. 9-91 and 'Sir Charles Hanbury Williams and the Chelsea Factory' English Ceramic Circle Transactions, 1988, Vol. 13, part 2, pp. 110-120, where he mounts a convincing argument that what has come to be known as the 'Northumberland Service', in the possession of the Dukes of Northumberland at Alnwick Castle, is in fact the majority of the service given to Hanbury Williams by King Augustus.
Unlike the Hanbury Williams Service, the specimen birds of these plates do not appear to have been taken from the first volume of Eleazar Albin's Natural History of Birds, published in three volumes from 1731 to 1738 (and acquired by Meissen in 1745), and the graphic source for them is currently unknown. If these plates were made for Frederick the Great, then perhaps Sir Charles Hanbury Williams could have been in some way connected with the order.