Oval sugar bowl from a Buffon service

Sèvres factory
ca. 1784
Hard and soft-paste porcelain with a polychrome decoration of birds and a background with a blue and gold oeil-de-perdrix pattern on a green ground
Inv. CAM 258, 292 à 294
© Les Arts Décoratifs

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The thousand or so engraved plates illustrating The Natural History of Birds, published between 1770 and 1783 by Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon, became an almost inexhaustible source of models for the painters of the Sèvres factory, and especially for the so-called “Buffon” services with their decoration of birds.

The names of the various carefully depicted species are written on the back of each piece. Several “Buffon services” were made during the reign of Louis XVI. The first was delivered in 1782 to the Comte d’Artois. In 1784, the Sèvres factory produced a service “with a green dotted ground, Buffon birds and classical heads,” purchased by the art dealer Le Fevre in Amsterdam. The green ground has a blue and gold oeil-de-perdrix pattern; the plate rims and the faces of the various pieces are decorated with birds in rectangular reserves and gray monochrome medallions containing classical profiles. This soft-paste porcelain service for 48 guests, most pieces of which are stamped 1784, continued to be added to until the imperial period. It includes soup and dinner plates, oval, square or shell-shaped compotes, ice buckets, oval sugar bowls, jam pots, egg cups and various other pieces. The pieces are stamped by several painters – Dutanda, Philippine the Elder, Tallandier and Vieillard – and by the gilders Chauvaux and Vincent. Moïse de Camondo bought it at the Baron Double sale in 1881.

Buffon service
© Les Arts Décoratifs

In March 1787, the Sèvres factory delivered a Buffon service to the Comte de Montmorin, minister of foreign affairs. The service was intended to be presented to King George III of England’s Minister Plenipotentiary William Eden, who had negotiated the Treaty of Navigation and Commerce between Great Britain and France the previous year. This service is similar to the previous one, with a border featuring a blue and gold oeil-de-perdrix pattern on a green ground, but it is less ornate as there are no medallions or birds on the rims. Moïse de Camondo acquired part of this service, and similarly decorated pieces of various provenance, before 1911 from various antiques dealers, including Jacques Seligmann and Oscar Stettiner.

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