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Sèvres: Porcelain as Animal Paintings

Published on , by Sophie Reyssat
Auction on 28 March 2023 - 13:30 (CEST) - Salle 1 - Hôtel Drouot - 75009

"Animal Scenes" is one of the major Sèvres services that made the factory famous in the first half of the 19th century. A royal gift.

Manufacture Royale de Sèvres, c. 1842, plate from the "Animal Scenes" dessert service... Sèvres: Porcelain as Animal Paintings

Manufacture Royale de Sèvres, c. 1842, plate from the "Animal Scenes" dessert service in hard porcelain, painted by Jean-Charles Develly and gilded by Vaubertrand and Moyez, from a set of 75 flat plates, two drum-mounted plates and 21 ornamental pieces.
Estimate: €300,000/500,000

With monkeys, lions, crocodiles, porcupines, turtles, kangaroos, polar bears, ostriches and more, a whole menagerie populates the centers of the plates in this Sèvres service dating from the July monarchy (1838-1848), aptly named "Animal Scenes". The 75 pieces tour every continent, presenting various species in an encyclopedic approach, from the exotic platypus to the domestic dog. Their exquisite execution goes hand in hand with a quick lesson in natural history, as each subject is accompanied by a short description. We learn that these charming marsupials with their slender snouts, whose huge eyes testify to their nocturnal lifestyle, are of the genus "Common Spotted Cuscus" (Cuscus amboinensis, according to Lacépède's terminology), living on the island of Waigiou (now Waigeo), in West Papua. Science does not exclude art, so they are depicted in a playful attitude; parrots pose near a bowl of fruit against a backdrop of water, while jthe erboas show interest in an equally naturalistic bush growing close to the pyramids of Egypt. While the illustrations serving as models have not been found, we know they were painted by Jean-Charles Develly, one of Sèvres' most famous artists, who joined the factory in 1813. "The sensation it created in Europe, its luxury products and its outstanding pieces were enough for its reputation to extend to all French porcelain," said Alexandre Brongniart, appointed as its head in 1800. Reorganizing production and investing in research, he rose to the challenge of restoring the factory’s reputation, severely damaged by the Revolution. Thanks to the development of hard paste and a broader palette of vitrifiable colors, Sèvres porcelain now rivaled easel painting in terms of precision. Between 1815 and 1850, its themed services with a strong emphasis on compositions were highly successful.

This model decorated with animals was delivered to Baron Pasquier by order of Louis-Philippe in 1843. As well as the plates, the Chancellor of France received pieces without painted scenes, but with the same agate background unifying this service with gold highlights. A prestigious set and no mistake, it was used for the reception of Queen Elizabeth II at the Château de Sassy in Normandy in 1967. Apart from a biscuit stand, it has survived intact.

Tuesday 28 March 2023 - 13:30 (CEST) - Live
Salle 1 - Hôtel Drouot - 75009
Baron Ribeyre & Associés
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