Pair of porcelain ice-pails

Sèvres factory, Sèvres, France, AD 1811

'Glacières à gorge à têtes d'éléphants'

These porcelain ice-pails, with their elephant heads, formed part of a gift made on 5 May 1812 to the Emperor Francis I of Austria (1804-35) from his son-in-law Napoleon I. They were valued at FFr1,000 each.

Each of the buildings, painted by Jean-François Robert (1778-1838), had connections with Napoleon. They are: on one ice-pail, the Château of Saint-Cloud and the Château of Saint-Cyr; on the other, the Château of Ecouen and the Tuileries Palace. Napoleon proclaimed himself First Consul at Saint-Cloud, which became his summer home and was the place where he married Princess Marie-Louise of Austria in 1810. Napoleon himself, with the Empress Marie-Louise, can be seen in the landau carriage in the view of the Château of Saint-Cloud. In 1802 Napoleon established a military school at Saint-Cyr, and in 1807 a girl's school at the Château of Ecouen, while the Tuileries Palace was Napoleon's residence from 1800 until his exile.

The pails originally had metal liners intended to hold ice-cream, surrounded by crushed ice. The elephant heads suggest something of a Rococo fantasy, but the gilt ground and patterns of matt gilded decoration are firmly in the Empire style, reflecting the splendour and luxury of the Napoleonic court.

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More information

Bibliography

A. Dawson, A catalogue of French porcelai, revised paperback edition (London, The British Museum Press, 2000)

A. Dawson, 'Two Napoleonic Sèvres ice-pails: A present for an Emperor', Apollo-3 (October 1986), pp. 328-33

Dimensions

Height: 34.200 cm
Width: 28.900 cm (max)
Height: 34.200 cm
Width: 28.900 cm (max)

Museum number

M&ME 1985,12-3,1-2

MCT13201;MCT13202

Location

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