This type of decoration using gold and platinum seems to have mostly been produced in the early 1790s (a small number of pieces before that time are known). The production of some important suites of lacquer furniture delivered to the royal family at the palaces of Versailles, Saint-Cloud, Compiègne and Bellevue in the 1780s may have inspired interest.1 The use of platinum in place of silver was introduced at this time, the main advantage being that the platinum did not tarnish. For a discussion of this type of decoration see Adrian Sassoon, The J. Paul Getty Museum, Vincennes and Sèvres Porcelain, Malibu, 1991, pp. 152-155, where he illustrates a pair of half wine-bottle coolers in the Getty Museum which are similarly decorated.
Sassoon also notes that the artist's and kiln records show that a large number of dinner-service wares of this type were produced between 1790 and 1792. There are examples of plates with the entire surface decorated with a black ground in several museums including The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York,2 the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City,3 and in the Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg.4 There were also services of plates produced with black-ground rims with chinoiserie decoration and the centres with enamel coloured flowers; an example of this type was sold in these Rooms on 12 May 2010, lot 277, which was most probably from the service formerly in the Collection of Prince Nicolay Borisovich Yusupov (1750-1831). The Yusupov Service most probably had plates with entirely black grounds and plates with black borders and enamel decoration to the centre, see Kira Butler, 'Sévres for the Imperial Court', Apollo, June 1975, p. 457, where she describes this as the third Yusupov service, made of hard paste porcelain in imitation of Chinese black lacquer ware. One plate which she illustrates on p. 455 has the same scene to the centre as the present example and the man riding a bird in the border. The largest amount of pieces from the same service is in the Hermitage, see Nina Birioukova and Natalia Kazakevitch, La porcelaine de Sèvres du XVIII siècle, St Petersburg, 2005, pp. 189-193, nos. 946-954, where they state that the pieces were most probably part of the service fond noir, figures et fabriques chinoises imitant le laque en or jaune, or vert et platine, sold in 1794 to the merchant Empaytaz.5 Most of the pieces were decorated by Etienne-Charles Le Guay, Jean-Jacques Dieu, Bulidon, Commelin and Vincent the younger.
One of a pair of Sèvres Vases in The Royal Collection bears the same scene as on the centre of the present plate, taken from an engraving by Jean-Jacques Avril No. 5 in the series Cahier de Balançoires Inventé et Dessinées par J. Pillement Premier Peintre du Roy de Pologne, see Geoffrey de Bellaigue, French Porcelain in the Collection of Her Majesty The Queen, London, 2009, pp. 504-509, no. 117. These engravings were not only used as a source of inspiration at Sèvres but also at the Berlin factory; a plate with a similar scene was sold in these Rooms on 8 October 2002, lot 228.
1. Selma Schwartz, 'Chinoiserie decoration on black-ground Sèvres Porcelain', Schwartz Porcelain, December 2003 - June 2004 Exhibition Catalogue, Munich, 2003, p. 99.
2. Gift of Lewis Einstein, (62.165.2,3,5,9).
3. Gift of Arnold Seligmann, Rey & Co., (33-1369-70).
4. See Kira Butler, 'Sèvres for the Imperial Court', Apollo, June 1975, pp. 456-7 and Nina Birioukova, Natalia Kazakevitch, ibid., Saint Petersburg 2005, pp.189-193, nos. 946-954.
5. Chavagnac X., Grollier Ch. Histoire des Manufactures Françaises de Porcelaine, Paris, 1906, p. 222.