A set of twelve Sèvres plates from the 'Service de dessert marly Rouge' for the Emperor Napoleon, circa 1809
Lot 223*
A set of twelve Sèvres plates from the 'Service de dessert marly Rouge' for the Emperor Napoleon, circa 1809
Sold for £ 81,250 (US$ 107,879) inc. premium

Lot Details
A set of twelve Sèvres plates from the 'Service de dessert marly Rouge' for the Emperor Napoleon, circa 1809 A set of twelve Sèvres plates from the 'Service de dessert marly Rouge' for the Emperor Napoleon, circa 1809 A set of twelve Sèvres plates from the 'Service de dessert marly Rouge' for the Emperor Napoleon, circa 1809 A set of twelve Sèvres plates from the 'Service de dessert marly Rouge' for the Emperor Napoleon, circa 1809 A set of twelve Sèvres plates from the 'Service de dessert marly Rouge' for the Emperor Napoleon, circa 1809 A set of twelve Sèvres plates from the 'Service de dessert marly Rouge' for the Emperor Napoleon, circa 1809 A set of twelve Sèvres plates from the 'Service de dessert marly Rouge' for the Emperor Napoleon, circa 1809 A set of twelve Sèvres plates from the 'Service de dessert marly Rouge' for the Emperor Napoleon, circa 1809 A set of twelve Sèvres plates from the 'Service de dessert marly Rouge' for the Emperor Napoleon, circa 1809 A set of twelve Sèvres plates from the 'Service de dessert marly Rouge' for the Emperor Napoleon, circa 1809 A set of twelve Sèvres plates from the 'Service de dessert marly Rouge' for the Emperor Napoleon, circa 1809 A set of twelve Sèvres plates from the 'Service de dessert marly Rouge' for the Emperor Napoleon, circa 1809 A set of twelve Sèvres plates from the 'Service de dessert marly Rouge' for the Emperor Napoleon, circa 1809
A set of twelve Sèvres plates from the 'Service de dessert marly Rouge' for the Emperor Napoleon, circa 1809
Each decorated in the centre with a butterfly reserved against a pale-blue ground within a colourful floral wreath bound with gilt ribbons against a burnished gilt band, the gilt-edged, red-ground rim with a border of formal gilt foliage within two gilt lines, 23.7cm diam., ten with 'M.Imp.le/ de Sevres/ 1809' stencilled in iron-red, one with '8' instead of '1809' and one unmarked, gilders' marks 'Gzi', 'M.fi' [Pierre-Louis Micaud], 'W' [Pierre Weydinger], 'AB.' [Antoine-Gabriel Boullemier], 'BT' and 'cc' [Charles-Louis Constans], various incised marks (some with minor wear, one with restuck flat rim chip) (12)

Footnotes

  • Provenance:
    Delivered to the Emperor Napoleon at the Palais de Fontainebleau on 7th, 8th and 18th October 1809;
    Listed among the property taken by the Emperor to Elba in April 1814;
    Given in 1829 to Jérôme-Napoléon Bonaparte (1805-1870) by his father, the Emperor's youngest brother, Jérôme Bonaparte, King of Westphalia between 1807-13, probably on the occasion of the former's wedding to Susan May Williams (1812-81) in 1829; thence given in 1875 to
    Charles Joseph Bonaparte (1851-1921) and his wife Ellen Channing-Day (1852-1924) on the occasion of their wedding; thence given to Ellen Bonaparte's godson,
    Robert Wood Williams, Sr. (1890-1984) and Helen Macqueen Gibbs Williams, probably on the occasion of their wedding in 1924;
    Thence by descent to the present owner

    For a discussion of the dessert service "fond rouge, papillons et fleurs", commissioned for Compiègne but delivered in October 1809 to Fontainebleau, shortly before the Emperor's arrival there on 26th October for a stay of a little over two weeks; see Camille Le Prince, Napoléon Ier & la Manufacture de Sèvres (2016), p. 72, and p. 278 for the entry of 11 October 1809 in the Magasin de vente, including the composition of the service, which had a total value of 18,580 francs. Other table and coffee services were delivered to Fontainebleau at the same time, including a service with beau bleu ground that was also originally intended for Compiègne (S. Wittwer, Raffinesse & Eleganz (2007), cat. no. 64). In the imperial hierarchy, Fontainebleau ranked second among the country estates, just after Saint Cloud, and required furnishings commensurate with its importance (Le Prince, p. 72).

    The service comprised 180 plates, thirty-six plates (without the butterfly and floral wreath in the centre) for mounting as fruit plates, sixteen compotiers (of which half had dolphin feet), four footed bowls, four sugar bowls with eagle heads, two ice pails with elephant heads, two ice coolers of "forme Olympique", four baskets "forme Jasmin" and four shallower baskets. An additional four sugar bowls "à dauphin olympique" were listed separately as a cost of 1400 francs, and four more plates were listed on 18 October 1809, and another on 25 March 1811 (Wittwer, ibid.).

    Two other plates from the service were sold in these Rooms, 3 December 2008, lots 371 and 372, the first of which was acquired by the Chateau de Fontainebleau. Another plate was sold in these rooms 25 May 2011, lot 363, and two more on 12 December 2012, lots 238 and 240. A group of pieces from the service hitherto unrecorded in the literature and including one of the ice pails with elephant heads, two of the sugar bowls with eagle heads, one footed bowl, six compotiers, as well as twelve plates, was recently sold from the estate of David Rockefeller (Christie's New York, 9 May 2018, lot 118), apparently having been acquired by his mother, Abby Aldrich Rockefeller, around 1940.

    Ownership of the 'Marly rouge' Service after Napoleon

    In April 1814, the service "marly rouge" is recorded amongst the effects shipped to Elba from Fontainebleau ("without the knowledge of the concierge...") when the Emperor went into exile. There is no record of its whereabouts in the following turbulent years until 1829, when – according to family tradition - it was given by Napoleon's youngest brother, Jérôme-Napoléon Bonaparte (1784-1850), King of Westphalia between 1807 and 1813, to his son - also called Jérôme-Napoléon - on the occasion of his marriage.

    Jérôme Napoléon Bonaparte (1805-70) was born in London out of a short-lived marriage to the American heiress Betsy Patterson, but lived with his mother in the United States following the swift annulment in 1805 of his parents' marriage by his uncle, the Emperor Napoleon. He studied law at Harvard University but did not practice, instead becoming a farmer, chairman of the Maryland Agricultural Society and first president of the Maryland Club. He married Susan May Williams, the daughter of a prominent Baltimore merchant and one of the founders of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad in 1827.

    Their younger son, Charles Joseph Bonaparte (1851-1921), was a Baltimore lawyer who became prominent in municipal and national reform movements and went on to serve as United States Secretary of the Navy (1905) and subsequently Attorney General (1906-09) in the cabinet of President Theodore Roosevelt, a Harvard College friend. During this time he founded the forerunner of the FBI. He subsequently returned to his law practice in Baltimore. He married Ellen Channing Day (1852-1924) in 1875, but they had no children and it is thought that she gave the twelve plates as a wedding gift to her godson, Robert Wood William, Sr., whose mother, Mary Clifton Wood Williams, had been one of Charles Joseph Bonaparte's closest friend in Baltimore. He noted of Charles Joseph and Ellen Bonaparte: "[they] really lived in style, with a beautiful city house with a stable full of horses, and a country house, Bella Vista, fourteen miles in the country. We were frequent guests at both houses - and regularly so in Thanksgiving Day in the country. I often drove with or behind coachman and footman as he drove to his office in town."

    Robert Wood Williams (1890-1984), also a Baltimore lawyer, succeeded Charles Joseph Bonaparte as the trustee for various Bonaparte family trusts and became executor and trustee of his godmother's estate after her death. During the First World War, he was a Captain in the Intelligence Division of the General Staff assigned to the War College in Washington with duties related to the tracking and arresting of enemy aliens in the United States suspected of sabotaging or interfering with the war effort. After the war he specialized in Admiralty law and during the Second World War he was Chairman of the John Hopkins University Trustee committee of the Applied Physics Laboratory, where the famous Proximity Fuse was developed, which gave the Allies complete air supremacy in the Pacific. In 1950, Williams became a member of the Federal Maritime Board, responsible only to the President and Congress, and in 1957 he was elected a Life Member of the Board of Trustees of John Hopkins University.
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