The graphic source for the bird at the centre of this plate is an engraving from the comte de Buffon's nine volumes on birds, which formed part his larger work, Histoire naturelle générale et particulière des animaux, published between 1770 and 1783.
The present plate is from the service now identified as the 'Auckland Service'. Louis XVI gave a service described as fond pointillé verd, et Oiseaux Buffon to the wife of William Eden, the Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to the Court of Versailles, for his successful negotiation of the Treaty of Navigation and Commerce, signed on 26th September 1786. A large part of the service, from the Edmund de Rothschild Collection was sold by Christie's on 30th June, 1975, lot 85, and another large part of the service, from the Elinor Dorris Ingersoll Collection, was sold by Christie's New York on 11th November 1977, lots 24 and 25, and is now in an English private collection.
Sir Geoffrey de Bellaigue first identified that these lots were almost certainly the service given to William Eden, who was created Lord Auckland in 1793 (see G. de Bellaigue's article 'A Diplomatic Gift', The Connoisseur, No. 784, June 1977, pp. 92-99). The Sèvres archives record (see David Peters, Sèvres Plates and Services of the 18th Century, 2005, vol. II, no. 87-1) that a service of this description was delivered via the comte de Montmorin (the French Minister for Foreign Affairs) to Mr. EYDEN.
Aileen Dawson, in her article 'Another Diplomatic Gift', Apollo, April 1980, pp. 288-297 notes on p. 292 that Sèvres registers for the years 1780-90 reveal that few services of this pattern were made and that the Eden service was unique. She refers to another service of similar design, delivered to Monsieur Le Fevre, a merchant in Amsterdam, on 29th December 1784, similarly decorated but with the addition of more birds reserved on the green Taillandier border. A plate and other pieces from another service of similar design, now in the Musée Camondo, Paris, is illustrated by Marcelle Brunet and Tamara Préaud, Sèvres, Des origines à nos jours, 1978, pp. 216-219.
Pieces from the Auckland Service were in a sale which took place at Christie's shortly after Eden's death in May 1814. The service was bought by the Prince Regent, via his agent Lord Falmouth, and used for a spectacular ball at Carlton House only three days later (see Dawson, loc. cit., p. 292). A large part of the service, from the Edmund de Rothschild Collection was sold by Christie's on 30th June, 1975, lot 85, and another large part of the service, from the Elinor Dorris Ingersoll Collection, was sold by Christie's New York on 11th November 1977, lots 24 and 25, and is now in an English private collection.
Exactly when and how the service (or part of it) came to be in the collection of Baron Lionel de Rothschild is unknown, but it must have taken place before the Baron's death in 1879. Although no pieces of the service appear in the 1907 catalogue of Sèvres porcelain in the Royal Collection, other pieces of this service are now in the Collection of H.M. the Queen.
Pierre Massy is recorded at Sèvres as a painter specializing in flowers and birds 1779-1802.
Henry-Frangois Vincent père is recorded at Sèvres as a gilder 1753-1800.