Sèvres Manufactory (French, 1740present); Decorated by Pierre–André Le Guay (French, active 17731817); gilded by Joseph–Léopold Weydinger (French, active 17781804, 18078, 1811, 181629)
Hard–paste porcelain; Diam. 9 5/16 in. (23.7 cm)
The Charles E. Sampson Memorial Fund, 1987 (1987.224)
This plate was one of seventy-eight plates belonging to a set described in the Sèvres factory archives of 1808 as a "Dessert service with dark blue ground, figures in brown heightened with gold on pebbled ground, etc." The process of decoration as described in the factory archives reveals the order of the labor. The blue ground of the border was applied first, followed by the marbled ground of the center, which had to be executed in two layers, each of which required a firing. The gilding of the border was applied next, and lastly the figural decoration of the center was painted. A final application of gold must have been required for the gilt highlights of the central figure scene.
The sales ledgers indicate that it cost 51 francs to produce each plate, but the factory decided to sell them at a loss at 40 francs each. It is clear that the plates were not considered aesthetically successful; the figure painting was regarded as mediocre, and it is likely that the marbled ground was found to be unattractive. The dessert service failed to find a buyer, and it finally was included in an auction held in December 1826 and January 1827. Despite the contemporary assessment of the service, its striking gilt design on a dark blue border and its monochromatic classical figure painted on a marbled ground reflect the boldness and impressive severity of the Empire style in porcelain.