The present gold-ground tea kettle or théière ‘bouillotte’ is almost certainly the example sold either to Marie Antoinette or to Louis XVI at Le Voyage de Versailles held January 1779.
Although eighty-nine examples of this form are listed in the factory sales records, only twelve can be accounted for today. Of these, eight are in museums. The remaining four are all in the United States, three in two different private collections. The present example, acquired by Dalva Brothers at the prestigious Hector Binney auction of 1989, appears to be the only example to not have a lyre as the side plate to the handle, the twisted wire instead resembling interlaced Ls. Produced in two sizes, the model was introduced in 1774, the majority made between 1778 and 1783. Frustratingly, the sales records include very few references to decoration, noting simply 1 bouillotte and a price ranging from less than 100 livres to 360. Once can thus surmise that the least expensive would be of the 2nd size and painted with scattered flowers while the most expensive would be of the first size and painted with chinoiserie decoration. Aside from the king and queen, purchasers at the Voyage de Versailles in 1779 and 1780 included the duc de Chartres and the le duc d’Angoulême. In 1778, Mme. Adelaïde purchased a tea kettle for 360 livres, likely the salmon ground example of the first size with chinoiserie decoration, now in a private American collection.
The present example with its rich bouquets of flowers on a gold ground, may well have been the example sold to either the king for 312 livres (f.178r) or to the queen for 288 livres (f. 179r). It must certainly be the example for which Philippe Parpette was paid 48 livres for the decoration, described in his payment records for 19 January 1779 as bouillotte fleurs sur fond d’or (a bouillotte decorated with flowers on a gold ground – SCC-Archives MNS Vj’1). Parpette, recorded at the manufactory from 1755-57 and 1773-1806 as a painter of flowers, as well as a gilder and enameler, specialized in this type of gold ground decoration, examples of which are now in Pavlovsk, purchased by the Comte and Comtesse du Nord, pseudonyms for Tsar Paul and Empress Maria Feodorovna of Russia, during their travels in France in 1781-1782. See Pavlovsk – The Collections, Paris, 1993, p. 149, fig. 18.