The present ice-pail would appear to be the only important piece of form extant from a dessert service originally comprising some eighty-eight pieces sold to Empress Joséphine and delivered to the Elysée Palace on 9th March 1810.
Following their divorce in 1810, Napoléon Bonaparte relocated his former wife to the palace. She and the service removed to the Château de Malmaison just outside Paris in 1812. In the inventory created after Josephine’s death in 1814, the service is itemized as entry 423. At that time, both ice-pails, and both baskets, 1 of the original 2 sugar-bowls, 8 of the original 12 serving dishes (of which 2 were in poor condition), and only 64 of the original 72 plates remained. How the service was disbursed after her death is unclear.
The use of botanic specimen flowers was hugely popular at the time, instigated in part by the circulation of colored specimen engravings of roses and other flowers by Redouté, who was employed by Empress Josephine in 1798 and later became her official artist. She is believed to have funded several of Redouté’s publications, including Les Liliacées (1802-16), Jardin de la Malmaison (1803-05), Descriptions des Plantes Rares Cultivées a Malmaison (1812-17) and Les Roses (1817-24). The floral decoration on this service may well have been inspired by Redouté’s engravings for Josephine of the flowers in the gardens at the Château de Malmaison.
A virtually identical green-ground service but for small variations in the gilding patterns bearing date codes for 1811 and 1812 was presented by Louis XVIII to Edward, Duke of Kent. The pair of ice-pails, also minus their covers and liners, was sold Christie’s New York, 21 October 2005, lot 149. Similar decoration on a green ground and painted with floral garlands was used for the service made for Camille Borghese, Emperor Napoleon’s brother-in-law, also purchased in 1809 (see Camille LePrince, Napoléon 1er & Sèvres: L’art de la porcelaine au service de l’Empire, Paris, 2016, p. 154-155).
Today, the château de Malmaison retains only five plates from the Service à Fleurs De L’imperatrice Josephine, a gift of Honorary Consul and Mrs. Proctor Jones in 1992. See L'Aigle et le Papillon, Symboles des Pouvoirs sous Napoléon (1800-1815), Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris, 2 April-5 October 2008, cat. no. 219 (1 plate exhibited). Other extant pieces from the service include a bowl sold Bonhams, London, 3 December 2008, lot 370; a plate sold Christie’s, London, 2 June 2009, lot 116; and another plate sold Bonhams, London, 6 July 2010, lot 288. See also Eleanor P. DeLorme, ed., Josephine and the Arts of the Empire, The Getty Museum, Los Angeles, 2005, pp. 126-128, fig. 87 for a further discussion of this chrome green ground service for which Jacques-Nicolas Sinsson and Pierre Weydinger are likely candidates as painter and gilder respectfully.