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, which was published between 1770 and 1783.
This plate is identical in every respect with the service now identified as the Auckland Service, with the exception of its date. Louis XVI gave a service 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 the registers for 15th March 1787) that a service of this description was delivered via the comte de Montmorin (the French Minister for Foreign Affairs) to Mr, EYDEN. As the present lot dates from 1792, it is most probably a replacement plate for the Auckland Service. 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, but the present plate cannot be from this service, which has additional cartouches on the 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 (Fribourg, 1978), pp. 216-219; but this plate is of slightly different form from the present lot and the Auckland service. A plate which would appear to be from the same service as the present lot, was sold from the Charles-Otto Zieseniss Collection by Christie's Paris on 6th December 2001, lot 280. If this plate is from the Auckland Service, then it would have been bought at the 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). 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.