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Porcelain plate


Diameter: 24.000 cm

M&ME 1992,7-9,1

Room 47: Europe 1800-1900

    Porcelain plate

    Sèvres factory, Sèvres, France, AD 1856

    Part of a service commissioned by Prince Napoléon for Mademoiselle Rachel, his mistress

    The dark red ground of the plate is painted with Pompeian-style decoration. The central trophy is based on an engraving from Le Antichità d'Ercolano, published in Naples in 1760. This was a series of lavishly -illustrated volumes that published for the first time the astonishing remains at Herculaneum. The discovery and excavation of the ruins of Herculaneum (from 1738) and Pompeii (from 1748) played a major part in the widespread use of classical motifs in architecture and in decoration. The dark red wall paintings found in the villas of Pompeii were the main inspiration for a dark terracotta red commonly known as 'Pompeian red' and used from the late eighteenth century mainly in interior decoration, textiles, ceramics and furniture.

    The plate was originally part of a 114-piece dessert service, similarly decorated with trophies or landscapes based on those in Le Antichità d'Ercolano. This splendid, and expensive service comprised soup plates, melon dishes, salad dishes, sauceboats and stands, gravy pots, assorted plates and serving dishes, coffee cups, teacups and saucers. It is probable that the service was commissioned by Prince Napoléon (Napoléon Joseph-Charles Paul, 1822-91) for his mistress Rachel Félix (1820-58), an actress who lived in his Paris residence, the Maison Pompéienne. The house was fantastically decorated with painted wall murals in the style of Pompeii, and contemporary records indicate that Mademoiselle Rachel had a Pompeian-style porcelain service.

    J. Rudoe, Decorative arts 1850-1950: a c, 2nd ed. (London, The British Museum Press, 1994)

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

    M-C. Dejean de La Batie, 'La maison Pompéienne du Prince Napoléon', Gazette des Beaux-Arts, 97 (April 1976), pp. 127-34


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