The present model of a pacing lion was conceived in 1817 by Alexandre-Evariste Fragonard as a pair with a lioness. It was intended to accompany Egyptian figures bearing baskets and to flank a central basket or corbeille 'canéphore' supported by four female figures as part of an elaborate dessert-service.
Jean-Charles-Nicholas Brachard l'aîné was employed at Sèvres as a sculptor and he turned Fragonard's fantasy into a three-dimensional reality two years later. It would appear that only the lion model was put into production as no lionesses are recorded. Drawings of Fragonard's project for both and a plaster model of Brachard's original creation are retained at Sèvres.
Tamara Préaud records several examples of this model in the Sèvres sales inventories, see The Sèvres Porcelain Manufactory, Alexandre Brongniart and the Triumph of Art and Industry, 1800-1847, The Bard Graduate Center for Studies in the Decorative Arts, New York, 1997, p. 358, pl. 143, a, b for an illustration of two lions. The first examples of this model are recorded in the Sèvres sales inventories on 26 December 1818 and were exhibited in the Louvre on 1 January 1819. They were subsequently delivered on 2 February 1820 to Monsieur le chevalier de La Malle conseiller d'État Membre du comité du contentieux. A further single example was sent to the saleroom on 1 July 1820 and was subsequently delivered to M.Destouches, 'préfet' on 2 June 1820; the next two examples reached the sales inventories on 30 May 1823 and were delivered to the Garde-Meuble on 10 June 1824. Further recorded saleroom entries are dated 1845 and 1849. The price of the earliest example was 290 francs with little subsequent variation.
Examples of this model which have appeared at auction include the single example sold twice by Sotheby's, once in London on 23 June 1992, lot 201 and again in New York on 22 October 1995, lot 331. A pair illustrated by Tamara Préaud, Ibid., 1997, p. 358, nos. 143 a & b were subsequently sold at Christie's in New York on 19 October 2007, lot 364 and another pair sold at Christie's in New York on 26 November 2013, lot 355. A single example is retained in the Ministry of Foreign Affaires in Paris and is illustrated by Tamara Préaud and Marcelle Brunet, Sèvres des origines à nos jours, Fribourg, 1978, p. 291, no. 354.