Fruit or flower basket (corbeille aux cygnes)

Factory: Sèvres Manufactory (French, 1740–present)

Designer: Louis Martin Berthault (French, Paris, active by 1785–died 1823 Tours)

Decorator: Pierre-Louis Micaud (active 1795–1834)

Date: 1823

Culture: French, Sèvres

Medium: Hard-paste porcelain

Dimensions: Overall: 14 3/16 × 16 in. (36 × 40.6 cm)

Classification: Ceramics-Porcelain

Credit Line: Purchase, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Wrightsman, by exchange, 1985

Accession Number: 1985.119


This basket is one of the most spectacular products of the Sèvres factory made during the first quarter of the nineteenth century. While the factory archives often provide copious amounts of information concerning the manufacture and sale of important objects such as this basket, surprisingly little is known about its origins and history. It may have been one of a pair, and one can assume that they were intended to be the focal points of a complex, multipart centerpiece intended to decorate the table during the dessert course. The large size and ambitious design of the basket, which perhaps was intended for fruit or flowers, conveys a sense of the scale and grandeur of the dining table setting in the first third of the nineteenth century.

The design for the basket is attributed to Louis Martin Berthault (active 1785–1823), and it appears that he included it among the designs he submitted to Empress Joséphine in 1814 for a new dessert service. Joséphine's service was never produced, however, and it remains unknown why and for whom this basket was made nine years later.