Diameter: 23.800 cm
Room 47: Europe 1800-1900
Sèvres porcelain plate showing the Temple of Contra Latopolis (modern Esna), painted by Jacques-François Swebach-Desfontaines (1769-1823)
Sèvres factory, Sèvres, France, AD 1811
A trial piece for the Service Egyptien?
The decoration for the service known as the Service Egyptien was designed in 1805. It consists of views of Egypt painted in sepia tones in the centre and a border with a dark blue ground and gilt hieroglyphs. The views, the hieroglyphs and other motifs on the border are based on illustrations published in Dominique-Vivant Denon's Voyage dans la Basse et la Haute Egypte (1802). Denon (1747-1825) had accompanied Emperor Napoleon I on his Egyptian campaign in 1798 as an official artist and recorder of the ruins, and on his return became Director of the Musée Napoléon, now the Musée du Louvre. In 1786 Denon, a passionate antiquary, had sold a number of classical and Etruscan vases to Louis XVI (reigned 1774-92), which entered the Sèvres factory collection. Denon's vases and his publication provided the inspiration for two editions of this Sèvres service: one was presented to Tsar Alexander I of Russia in 1808, the other was ordered by the Empress Josephine in 1810, but was rejected as being too severe. The second service remained in the factory, and was eventually presented by Louis XVIII (reigned 1795-1824) to Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington (1769-1852) for his assistance in helping to restore the Bourbon monarchy. It is now in the Wellington Museum, Apsley House, London.
This plate is apparently unique, and may be a trial piece. There is a watercolour drawing in the Sèvres factory archive for the border dated 12 September 1804 by the architect Théodore Brongniart, father of the factory director, Alexandre Brongniart.
A. Dawson, A catalogue of French porcelai, revised paperback edition (London, The British Museum Press, 2000)
, Versailles et les tables royal, exh. cat. (Palais de Versailles, 1993)
D. Ostergard (ed.), The Sèvres Porcelain Manufacto (Published for The Bard Graduate Center for Studies in the Decorative Arts, New Haven, Yale University Press, 1997)
D-V. Denon, Voyage dans la Basse et la Hau (London, M. Peltier, 1802)