T hese Sèvres glass coolers in soft-paste porcelain come from the service given by Louis XVI to his brother-in-law Archduke Ferdinand of Austria. Intended for the court in Milan, the service comprised 288 pieces and cost the remarkable sum of 24,000 livres.
This extraordinary set was dispersed at the end of the 19th Century and subsequently individual pieces have appeared from time to time on the art market. Such was the case with the three plates sold by Sotheby’s France last year and with the pair of coolers that will be sold on 4 June in the Style sale.
The service is richly decorated with garlands of daisies, cornflowers and roses within medallions framed by golden palmettes on the bleu céleste background that Sèvres was so famous for. There is also an elegant pattern of pearls on a purple band. The coolers bear the marks of Guillaume Noël and Edme-François Bouillat; the latter was one of the factory’s most highly esteemed flower painters.
Glass coolers or seaux à verre, also called rafraîchissoirs or verrières in French, were essential fine tableware items in the 18th century. Wine was served chilled and coolers were used to keep the glasses on ice. Servants would bring them on request, as it was not yet customary to have glasses on the table. As smaller, more intimate dinners became fashionable, this individual model evolved to allow each guest to serve his or herself.
Archduke Ferdinand of Austria, Marie-Antoinette’s older brother, was governor of Lombardy. His marriage to Marie-Beatrice d’Este marks the start of the Hapsburg-Este dynasty. The Archduke and his wife travelled to Versailles as Count and Countess of Nellembourg on a semi-official visit in 1786.
As of the end of the 1750s, works produced by the Sevres porcelain factory feature prominently among the gifts given to European sovereigns by the French monarchy. Louis XVI gave at least six such services to his wife’s family. Upon the occasion of his visit in 1777, the king’s brother-in-law Joseph II was presented with two soup tureens and an Olio tureen decorated with spectacular gold wheat sheaves.
For more information on consigning works to Sotheby's, contact Constance Schaefer-Guillou, Senior Cataloguer, Furniture on +33 1 53 05 53 06 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org