Covered bowls (écuelles) and their stands were very personal items intended for use as broth or soup bowls with a dish for bread, eaten to sustain the owner through the lengthy ceremony of the toilette. They were usually made as individual items used in the bedroom or boudoir rather than at the dinner table, and are sometimes recorded with matching jug and basin sets for hand-washing or make-up pots. These high-status objects were, on occasion, offered as gifts, traditionally to a mother after the birth of a child, and also appear in the inventories of luxury goods offered as part of diplomatic presentations to dignitaries and nobility.
This form and its exotic title are discussed in relation to the later example in the Wallace Collection, by Tamara Préaud, Porcelaines de Vincennes Les Origines de Sèvres, exhibition catalogue, Paris, 1977, p. 51 and Rosalind Savill, The Wallace Collection, Catalogue of Sèvres Porcelain, London, 1988, Vol. II, cat. nos. C426-7, pp. 645-6 and 652, illustrated on p. 654. This distinctive form, with a more generous bowl and more intricate handles that the écuelle rond, was often combined with the plateau 'ovale à bord de relief'. Ecuelles with these characteristic and identifiable features were made for a short time at Vincennes and Sèvres, first appearing in 1755 with only nine examples noted in the Vincennes/Sèvres Sales Registers before the final reference in 1757, see Rosalind Savill, ibid., p. 664, note 65.; all were sold to the the marchand-mercier, Lazare Duvaux. The prices for the examples with a plateau ovale à bord de relief ranged from 168 livres up to 600 livres for examples with a turquoise ground and flower painting. Four were sold with this ground colour for 600 livres, three painted with flowers and one with gilding only. The first of the three écuelles with flowers was listed in the Duvaux sales return of 1 January to 1 June 1755 and delivered from a kiln firing running from 3 February to 10 May 1755, this example would probably bear the date letter B. The other two examples with flowers were listed in the Duvaux sales return of 1 October 1755 to 31 December 1755 and both derived from a kiln firing running from an unstated date in 1755 to 31 December 1755, these would probably bear the date letter C. All three were apparently sold on by Duvaux to cash buyers in the respective sale return periods.
A similar example from the Markus Collection, with date letter B for 1754-55, is in the Museum of Fine Arts Boston (Tamara Preaud and Antoine D'Albis, La Porcelaine de Vincennes, Paris, 1991, p. 72-3, no. 10 and p. 87). The present example and the écuelle from the Markus Collection are probably two of the three examples bought by Duvaux. In the footnote for the Markus Collection example, Tamara Préaud notes with interest that this écuelle was bought by Duvaux rather than Aulagnier spécialiste du commerce avec 'le turc'. This refers to pieces commissioned from Vincennes 'pour le turc', a group which has intrigued scholars for a number of years. Included in the fifty-one models made at Vincennes between 1752 and 1755 'pour le turc' were vases, drinking vessels, teawares, bottles, items for the toilette, a mirror, frames and plaques intended for mounting as a table and plaques to be mounted as a casket. Both the Paris agent, Aulagnier and the Marseille dealers, Martin, received a percentage discount on purchases from the factory. Visitors to Constantinople, such as Casanova, noted the influence of French culture and a Francophile atmosphere. These suggest trade between the two countries. Good relations between France and Turkey established during the reign of Mahmud I (1730-54) cooled during the short reign of Osman III (1754-57), possibly due to the new Sultan re-aligning the Ottoman Empire with Prussia against the Franco-Austrian alliance following Turkey's isolation after the Treaty of Versailles. For further discussion of 'la commande pour le turc' see Rosalind Savill, ibid., Vol. II, pp. 645-6 and Tamara Préaud and Antoine d'Albis, ibid., p. 72, nos. 8-12. Further proof of a link between pieces made at Vincennes and Turkey is evident from the écuelle with bleu céleste and gilding that was sold by Duvaux to Vergennes, Ambassador to Constantinople, in 1755. The Livre-Journal de Lazare Duvaux records 'Une écuelle à la turque & plateau à contours en bleu-céleste très-orné en or, à cartouches dans lesquels des caractéres arabes', implying that this form and calligraphic decoration was intended for a Turkish recipient, perhaps as a diplomatic gift.
The painter's marks on the present lot belong to an as yet unidentified flower painter active circa 1753-55, see David Peters, Sèvres Plates and Services of the 18th Century, Little Berkhamsted, 2005, Vol. I, p. 96, where the author suggests that the appearance of this mark on pieces from the bleu céleste service made for Louis XV might suggest that this is the mark of a high-salaried artist.
The sale conducted on behalf of Gerald Henry, 7th Baron Foley, by Castiglione & Scott at Ruxley Lodge, Claygate, Surrey included over 150 lots of porcelain from various factories, of which over 100 were described as Sèvres. Of the three écuelles included in the sale, one was "old Dresden", one Sèvres example was decorated in pink with Cupids and birds and the third is clearly distinguishable and is most likely the present example. Whilst there is presently no evidence to suggest when this piece came into the Foley family it is interesting to note that Robert Foley, who inherited the baronetcy in 1767, had been a banker in Paris acting for Lord Coventry in his purchases from Sèvres in that year. Sèvres porcelain was also offered from the collection of the 4th Baron Foley, Fosters, 9 March 1854.
Christie's gratefully acknowledge the contribution of Dame Rosalind Savill and David Peters in the compilation of this catalogue note.