Hard–paste porcelain; Gr. H. 3 3/8 in. (8.6 cm), Gr. W. 9 1/2 in. (24.1 cm)
Purchase, Mrs. Sid R. Bass Gift, in honor of Mrs. Charles Wrightsman, and Anonymous Gift, 1997 (1997.518)
Most of the pieces produced at Sèvres in the last quarter of the eighteenth century reflected the Neoclassical style that dominated taste at the time. Elaborate porcelain dinner services with overtly classicizing decoration were made for Madame du Barry, Catherine the Great, Louis XVI, and Marie Antoinette, among others. The most notable Neoclassical Sèvres produced for Marie Antoinette was a service intended for the dairy at the château of Rambouillet.
The service reflects a new Neoclassicism that was firmly based upon archaeological evidence. Excavated objects, erroneously believed to have been made by the Etruscans, provided the foundation for this new style, which became known as the style etrusque. Most of the shapes in the service were derived from classical prototypes, and the decorative schemes were inspired stylistically by ancient Greek compositions. The function of all of the pieces involved the storage and serving of milk and other diary products, in keeping with the theme of the pleasure dairy.
A total of sixty-five pieces were delivered to Rambouillet in two shipments in 1787 and 1788. It may be that the queen saw only the pieces included in the first delivery. There is no record of a visit to Rambouillet in 1788, and with the start of the Revolution the following year, no further visits were possible.