Sèvres porcelain from commissioned, named services – an aspect of production that was prolific during the French Empire period – always attracts a premium over standard factory pieces.
This is even more the case if it can be tied directly to Napoleon himself.
The sale series titled L’Empire à Fontainebleau held by Osenat (25/18% buyer’s premium inc tax) in the French town from November 8-10 featured a large quantity of Sèvres.
A number of pieces came from named services including a prime example that ticked all the boxes.
A rare 9in (23cm) diameter dessert plate, painted with a snow-covered mountain scene by the artist Jacques François Joseph Swebach (1769-1823), came from a service known as the Service Particulier de l’Empereur or Service des Quartiers Généraux.
It was ordered by Napoleon in October 1807 and delivered to the Tuileries palace on April 27, 1810, and comprised an entrée and dessert service, a biscuit surtout de table of 25 sculptures and an Egyptian cabaret of 29 pieces.
The scene in the centre of the plate offered at the Osenat auction, which is signed by Swebach, depicts the elaborate funeral ceremony that Napoleon arranged to be held on the Mount St Bernard for General Desaix. The general was killed at the Battle of Marengo in 1800 coming to Napoleon’s rescue against the Austrians and is buried in the St Bernard Hospice.
In Swebach’s scene officers can be seen gathering on the mountain, some of them riding on sleighs.
The plate is one of 60 from the service that Napoleon was allowed to take with him to his exile on St Helena, a provenance that gave it an extra attraction. Twenty-three plates from the service are now at the Château de Fontainebleau; 19 at the Fondation Napoléon; three at the Château de Malmasion; three at the Musée royal de l’armée in Brussels; two in the Musée de Sèvres; one in the Louvre and some others in private collections.
The plate was estimated at €140,000-180,000 but that guide was outstripped on the day when it sold for €280,000 (£241,380).
As a name with a global following of enthusiasts, Meissen porcelain crops up in sales all over the world.
It usually features among the auctions of furniture and decorative arts at Koller (25/22/15% buyer’s premium) in Zurich and on September 30 a section of ceramics was dominated by pieces from the Meissen factory. Among them was an early piece of Böttger stoneware: a 6in (15cm) high pilgrim flask from 1711.
This sculptural piece derived from a silver shape featured relief moulded decoration attributed to Johann Jacob Irminger of female masks to the shoulders and a band of lambrequins to the base.
It generated enough interest to make SFr54,000 (£42,860).
A pair of models of a lion and a lioness with her cubs were dated to c.1751-53 and probably a JJ Kandler model. They had underglaze blue sword marks to the edge of the rockwork and were mounted on ormolu bases in Louis XV style. They took SFr50,000 (£39,680).
£1 = SFr 1.26/€1.16