The marriage coat-of-arms is that of Carl Theodor, Prince-Elector and Count of the Palatine (1724-1799) and his wife, Elizabeth Augusta von Sulzbach (1721-1794); a union which strengthened the Wittelsbach line. Carl Theodore succeeded his father as Count Palatine of Sulzbach in 1733 and inherited the Electoral Palatinate and the duchies of Jülich and Berg in 1742, the same year he married his first cousin, Elizabeth Augusta.
The Frankenthal porcelain factory was established in 1755 by Paul-Antoine Hannong, following the cessation of porcelain manufacture at Strasbourg. On 25th April 1754, Hannong had applied to produce hard-paste porcelain commercially but his requêt was turned down by the King. He was forced to move porcelain production outside the borders of France and further along the Rhine at Frankenthal he was able to find a willing patron in Carl Theodore. In June 1756, the Elector and Electress Palatine visited the recently established factory.i It is possible that the present basin was part of a toilet set produced to mark this occasion. The Wittelsbach shield mark was used for a very short period; Beaucamp-Markowsky, op. cit., records only seven pieces in her catalogue.
By July that year the factory was estimated to be worth 25,000 guilders. However, in 1762 following the deaths of Paul-Antoine Hannong, his son and manager at Frankenthal, Charles-François-Paul as well as increasing debts, the Elector acquired the factory outright for 40,804 guilders.
Only a handful of Frankenthal shaving bowls appear to be recorded, some of which were produced with a matching pitcher which would nestle in the recess to the rim.ii The border of this basin is reserved with three topographical views, most likely derived from a graphic source, possibly using the engravings of Johan Georg Ringlin, Martin Engelbrecht or one of their contemporaries, perhaps after a drawing by Friedrich Bernhard Werner. The most readily identifiable view is of Mannheim across the River Neckar; it is distinguished by the façade of the Mannheim Palace and the dome and bell towers of the Jesuit Church. Both buildings were grand projects commissioned by Elector Carl Philip III, grandfather of Carl Theodor, after moving his court from Heidelberg to Mannheim. Building commenced in 1720 and 1733 respectively and both were completed by 1760.
In the second quarter of the 18th century the Meissen porcelain factory were noted for the production of armorial services and garnitures and landscape painting, in particular with scenes derived from a printed source, for example the so-called Christie-Miller service which used Venetian scenes after engravings by Melchior Küssel. The present basin combines skilled landscape painting and great attention to detail (the barge in the right-hand cartouche flies a Wittelsbach banner) with an imposing coat-of-arms and is clearly a statement of intent to their patron on behalf of the fledgling factory, at a time when the Meissen factory fortunes were in decline. The flower painting to the underside of the basin is also exceptional and owes much to the speciality of the Strasbourg faience and porcelain workshops.
[i] See Dr. Karl Schulz, et. al., Frankenthaler Porzellan : Ausstellung zur Erinnerung an die Grundung der Porzellanmanufaktur Frankenthal im Jahre 1755, Neues Rathaus der Stadt Frankenthal 22. Mai mit 19. Juni 1955, Historisches Museum der Pfalz in Speyer 23. Juni mit 24. Juli 1955, exh. cat., 1955, p. 17.
[ii] A basin of the same form, painted with a continuous landscape at the rim, together with a matching ewer, marked with a rampant lion, from the collection of the Historical Museum of the Palatinate, Speyer, was included in the bicentenary exhibition of Frankenthal porcelain, op. cit., 1955, p. 36, no. 161, Abb. 18. A further example with a ewer, also with rampant lion mark, painted with sprays of flowers and puce trellis, see Barbara Beaucamp-Markowsky, op. cit., 2009, band III, Das Geschirr, Kat. no. 278.