Under the new executive, the designs of the ancien regime were cast aside in favour of neoclassicism and imagery that charted the triumphs and benefits of empire.
The Bonhams (27.5/25/20/14.5% buyer’s premium) sale titled Napoleon Bonaparte: The British Sale on October 27 included several pieces of Sèvres from important imperial services, many of them from the Twinight collection.
As indicated by the sale of a plate from the service particulier de l’Empereur for €280,000 at Osenat in Paris on November 9 (see International Events), these can be very expensive.
Estimated at £9000-11,000 but sold at £22,000 was a dessert plate decorated with a river landscape titled Vue de val Travers dans le Comté de Neuchâtel.
This comes from the service with ‘Vues de Suisse’ given by Napoleon to his stepson, Eugène de Beauharnais, viceroy to Italy, c.1811. The service contained 72 plates and is of particular technical interest, due to the combination of transfer printing and hand-painting in its decoration, a technique not often used in the factory’s production.
The particular view on this plate was taken from an engraving after Claude-Louis Châtelet, which was published in the late 18th century plate book Tableaux de la Suisse.
Also sold at £22,000 was a plate from the ‘service Cambacérès’ given by Napoleon to Jean-Jacques Régis, prince de Cambacérès and archchancellor of the Empire. The gift, purchased on August 17, 1807, included not only the service, but also biscuit figures, groups and vases.
The service included views of Italy but was expanded to include scenes of the royal palaces, such as Fontainebleau and the Tuileries, and scenes from Aesop’s Fables, in this case the tale of The Lion and the Gnat.
Sold at £18,000 (estimate £12,000-15,000) was a plate from the ‘service marli d’or’. The first mention of this service can be found in the Sèvres work records of 1805 and it continued being made until the restoration of the French monarchy.
Napoleon gave pieces as gifts to King Friedrich August I of Saxony in 1809 and subsequently to Prince Schwarzenberg, the Austrian ambassador, in 1812.
The decoration, including a variety of subjects from flower still-lifes and landscapes to cameos and genre scenes, was done by the very best painters at the factory. This plate c.1806-07 painted by Lebel depicts a view of the Rhine with the town of Braubach beside it and the Marksburg castle above.
Large numbers of Staffordshire figures were made depicting Napoleon – most of them made when the former emperor was firmly ensconced on St Helena. The majority of these are ‘flatbacks’ that were cheap and cheerful at the time and remain much the same today.
However, this sale included a much rarer Wood family pearlware portrait bust made around the time of Waterloo that models Bonaparte as First Consul. Standing just over 12in (31cm) high, it is particularly well painted with the red tunic embellished with oak leaves and the socle painted with panels simulating stone.
It was much admired by both pottery collectors and Napoleon aficionados and sold at £6500 (estimate £600-800).