silver ewer
The silver ewer presented to Louis XIV as a gift by a Siamese ambassadorial mission to Versailles in 1686. It has been acquired by the Palace of Versailles in a private treaty sale through auction firm Beaussant Lefèvre. Image copyright: Studio Sebert - Beaussant Lefèvre.

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The engraved and part gilt ewer was discovered by members of the auction house during a valuation and was then researched.

It bears the crowned arms of France and the three crowns to the base indicating that it was royal property from the Sun King’s reign. It also features inventory numbers showing its presence in the royal collections in the late 17th and early 18th centuries. It has been declared a national treasure.

silver ewer

A detail of the decoration to the 17th century silver ewer acquired by the Palace of Versailles. Image copyright: Studio Sebert - Beaussant Lefèvre.

In 1686, Siamese ambassadors took a large cache of gifts, including carpets, lacquerware, and 80 pieces of gold and silverware to Versailles to present to Louis XIV on behalf of King Narai of Siam who was represented by his foreign minister Kosa Pan.

This was the third Siamese diplomatic mission to Versailles during the 1680s following visits in 1681 and 1684. Louis had also in turn sent his own diplomatic missions to Siam for commercial purposes and to convert King Narai to Catholicism.

For both countries these missions were underpinned by commercial and political goals. Siam’s aim was to interest France in becoming a preferred trading partner. For Louis XIV the goal was to assert France’s influence and win commercial victory over Holland.

Ultimately the diplomatic missions were not successful as in 1688 King Narai was overthrown and replaced by Phetracha, who closed Siam to all westerners except the Dutch.

The price paid for the ewer has not been disclosed.