The present service and its box tooled with the crowned N cypher for Napoleon III almost certainly corresponds to a delivery to the Tuileries Palace in February 1862 [Vbb12, folio 46 verso]. This delivery, in turn, corresponds to the detailed itemization found in the saleroom register for 31 August of the previous year [ Vv6, folio n81-80 81-84], the tray described as Plateau de déjeuner mince coulé, fond sous mail, fleurs et insectes en pâte d'application, décor en or chinois, the gilding given to Tristani, the pâte-sur-pâte decoration to Gély.
The itemization in the saleroom register indicates that two similar services were made and delivered, but only one box, these pieces and their cost as noted in the ledger listed below:
2 plateaux (trays): 400 francs (each)
2 cafetières (coffee-pots): 140 francs (each)
2 pots à lait (milk-jugs): 105 francs (each)
2 pots à sucre (sugar-bowls): 140 francs (each)
4 tasses et soucoupes à café
(coffee-cups and saucers): 90 francs (each set)
1 boîte (box): 65 francs
For a tray of identical form exhibited at the Exposition Universelle of 1855, purchased by the South Kensington Museum and still in the collection of the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, see, Bernard Bumpus, Pâte-sur-Pâte, The Art of Ceramic Relief Decoration 1849-1992, London, 1992, color plate I. The central decoration based on the fables of La Fontaine, the border with dragonflies and butterflies reminiscent to those found on the present déjeuner, signed J.GÉLY. Also compare Brigitte Ducrot, Sèvres, une histoire céramique, Second Empire & III République, Turin, 2008, p. 117 for an extreme detail of a dragonfly found on a Vase Delhy and also recorded as by Gély, now preserved at the Sèvres Museum (Inv. GML 798/2).
For a floral painted déjeuner of the same complement, see Brigitte Ducrot, Porcelaines et Terres de Sèvres, Musée National du Château de Compiègne, Paris, 1993, p. 328, fig. 282. This example offered by the Empress Eugénie as a gift to the Comtesse de Pierres à Sèvres in 1853.
In 1853, after his coup d'état, Napoleon III ordered a complete renovation of the Elysée Palace. The Palace became the home to Eugénie de Montijo, the Emperor's fiancé. Napoleon III charged the architect Joseph-Eugène Lacroix with renovations that carried on until 1867. Both at Elysée and at Compiégne the Imperial couple's appreciation for pâte d'application and the work of the artist Gély is well documented, further strengthening the identification of the present déjuener, and its armorial fitted box as either the personal property of the Imperial family, or as a service delivered to the palace for use as a gift.
We would like to thank Coralie Coscino, archivist at Sèvres, for her assistance in identifying the service in the factory's records.