The selection of pieces from the Sèvres porcelain ‘Marly Rouge’ dessert service made for Emperor Napoleon I of France are among the works in the Rockefeller collection with highly important provenance. Described in the factory’s records as à fond rouge, papillons et fleurs (red ground with butterflies and flowers), this dessert service was originally ordered by Napoleon for the palace in Compiègne. However, records show its delivery on 7, 8 and 18 October 1809 to the palace of Fontainebleau. It was to Fontainebleau that Napoleon retreated for a respite after the grueling negotiations of the Treaty of Vienna, the signing of which at Schönbrunn Palace on 14 October 1809 ended hostilities between France and Austria. During this month-long stay outside Paris at his favorite country retreat, Napoleon broke the news to his empress, Josephine de Beauharnais, that he was divorcing her, as she had been unable to give him a son. Despite or perhaps because of its association with Josephine, the service marly rouge, was part of the household effects Napoleon brought with him into exile on the island of Elba only five years later.
Today, only one dolphin-footed compote and six plates remain at Fontainebleau, all recent acquisitions. Although plates have appeared on the art market in recent years, the portion of the service to be offered in the Rockefeller collection includes important pieces of form from the original delivery not seen on the art market since Abby Aldrich Rockefeller acquired the part-service over seventy-five years ago.
See C. Leprince, op. cit., p. 278, no. 142 for the complete listing of the 1809 delivery, valued at 19,980 francs.