The decoration on the present pair of bottle coolers is undoubtably by the hand of Louis-Denis Armand l'aîné. Although lacking the crescent recognized as the cypher for this pre-eminent bird painter, the interlaced L's of the factory mark are painted in the feathery hand that almost always accompany the crescent. The painter is recorded at Vincennes and Sèvres 1746-1788. However, the mark of a crescent seems to have been used only during the earlier years of his career. In 1761, at the height of his career, he received the considerable sum of 2400 livres in salary and bonus.
The identification of Armand l'aîné as 'The Crescent Painter' was confirmed in the early 1990's by Bernard Dragesco through archival documentation. The decoration on the present coolers displays all of the earmarks cited by Mr. Dragesco as diagnostic of Armand's hand, most important of which is the fact that the birds themselves interact within the landscape, seeming to 'gossip' while perched in a tree branch. The strong color combinations of their plummage is also typical, as are the wide flat leaves painted in shades of green and brown.
Very few services decorated on a bleu lapis ground would seem to have been made. One has decoration which corresponds very closely to that on the present coolers. Noted as delivered on 12 April 1765, it includes pieces painted by Armand l'aîné. The two sceau crenellé from this service, the property of a New Jersey Collector, were sold Sotheby's, New York, 31 October 1981, lot 103. The icepails, covers and liners and two ice-cup stands, the property of Alexander & Berendt, Ltd., were sold by Christie's, London, 28 June 1993 as part of an assembled group of bleu lapis wares of similar date and style. A large part of the service is retained in the [Palazzo Quirinale, Rome Inv. DP (1956) 1097-1132].
David Peters in his seminal work on the services produced at Vincennes and Sèvres in the 18th century notes that, although the factory's records do not list the name of the purchaser, the fact that a 12 discount was given on the total price would seem to indicate a trade buyer. However, further archival research reveals that this service and later suppliments of 1769 may well be those documented as having been acquired by the dukes of Parma. The strong basis for this assumption is the connection between the decoration on ice cup stands sold at Christie's and a drawing retained in the factory's archive with identical decoration labeled as soucoupe a pied modele pr. parme [.] Soucoupe de porcelaine dont les fonts de L'arabesque sont bleu de Roy[.] larabesque en or[.] et sujet coloré sur un fond blanc. See David Peters, Sèvres Plates and Services of the 18th century, privately printed, 2005, vol. II, pp. 357-358.
The difference between this service and the present coolers lies in the gilding pattern, that of the documented 1765 service having harp-shape gilt trellis cartouches flanking the central painted panels (those on the present-examples are D-shape), and a leafy vine entwined around a line (the present pair have no such vine but do have flower sprays issuing from the cartouche).