George John, 2nd Earl Spencer served as Ambassador-Extraordinary to Francis II, Holy Roman Emperor in Vienna in 1794 for less than a year. The bill for this service (together with a tea-service supplied at the same time but not included in this lot) was headed "Memoire des porcelaines que la Manufacture Imp: et Royl: a l'honneur de fournir a ... Son Excellence Monsgr Milord Spencer a Londre par Monsieur de Fries et Compagnie" - and totalled the huge sum of 2400 francs.
In his inventory of porcelain at Althorp in 1937, Honey transcribes a letter from Lavinia, Countess Spencer to her husband in Vienna: 'Wimbledon, 8 September 1794. I can't but think that you were to offer some other picture of Sir Joshua to Prince Lichtenstein, you might persuade him to make an exchange of your mother's for it. I think let the expense be what it will, 'tis well laid out - better I must say than such a sum would be in the service of china. Oh! you dog you; you want me to pull you by the elbow when in the midst of temptation'