Porcelain decorated with a black ground in imitation of Asian lacquer was produced at Sèvres for about a fifteen-year period beginning in 1790. Furniture decorated with imported black lacquer panels saw a resurgence of popularity in the last two decades of the eighteenth century, and the Sèvres factory's efforts to simulate black lacquer on porcelain were probably stimulated by this renewed general interest in lacquer decoration. Black-ground Sèvres porcelain was decorated with chinoiserie scenes executed in gold, which was often applied in subtle tones of yellow, green, and red. Small decorative highlights were often executed in platinum, and the ability to apply platinum—first mastered by the factory in 1790—may have been an impetus to produce these lacquer-inspired pieces.
This ice cream cooler dates from 1805, the final year in which Sèvres produced black-ground wares. It was part of a service that was purchased that year by a banker on behalf of the Portuguese ambassador to Russia. While new shapes were designed for the service, the chinoiserie decoration—fanciful scenes of life in an imagined, exotic Far East—is very similar to that found on the black-ground Sèvres of the early 1790s.
The design of this cooler allowed for ice to be stored both in the interior, below the liner that held the ice cream, and on the exterior, in the cavity of the steep-sided lid.
[Jeffrey H. Munger]
Marking: Printed in red enamel on underside:  M.Imple/de Sevres (Sèvres factory mark for 1804–13)