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On February 27, they were hammered down to an online bidder on thesaleroom.com for £2200. The price was a multiple of the £80-100 estimate, although several pre-sale enquiries suggested that figure was likely to be surpassed.

They were correctly described as 19th century Sèvres but the key to their popularity appears to lie in the inscriptions on the reverse. One reads Montmorency (Anne de) connétable né à 16me siècle and the other, broken and damaged, plate reads La Mo?he-Piquet (Guillaume de) officier de marine né à 18me Siècle.

These are both French historical personalities, the former a marshal and constable of France and the latter an admiral involved in the American revolutionary wars.

One knowledgeable trade member who spotted them attributed the plates to a 193-piece Sèvres royal service known as the Service Iconographique Français which was decorated with monochrome portraits based on engravings of famous French men and women within lapis and gilt borders. The service was delivered to the Château de Trianon in 1824, during Charles X’s reign.

Further examples

Plates from this service have surfaced at auction in the past, including a single plate with identical border decoration to the Carmarthen pair painted with a portrait of the artist Nicolas Poussin which realised $7500 at Sotheby’s in October 2012.

The Sotheby’s plate is now resurfacing as part of Richard Baron Cohen’s Twinight Collection auction at Lempertz previewed here.