A pair of Sèvres bottle coolers from a service for Madame du Barry, circa 1770

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Lot 114*
A pair of Sèvres bottle coolers from a service for Madame du Barry, circa 1770

Sold for £ 68,812 (US$ 86,317) inc. premium
A pair of Sèvres bottle coolers from a service for Madame du Barry, circa 1770
Seaux à bouteille, possibly painted by Charles-Nicolas Dodin, each side reserved with a gilt-edged circular medallion depicting a seated putto in a landscape with attributes of Music, Poetry, War and Peace, the putto emblematic of Poetry holding a scroll with the inscription 'Ode sur le mariage de M le Dauphin. le 16 May 1770 [Ode on the marriage of the Dauphin. the 16 May 1770], each panel within a band of laurel leaves with berries, further wreaths to the sides connected by trailing berried laurel leaves, all on a turquoise fond Taillandier, the scrolling shell handles heightened in gilding, 18.5cm and 18.7cm high, interlaced LL monograms in blue, incised LF and cd(?) (minute chips to tip edges of handles) (2)

Footnotes

  • Provenance:
    Purchased by Jeanne Bécu, Comtesse du Barry, on 1 September 1770;
    Acquired by the present owner by 1980

    The service was purchased by Madame Du Barry on 1st September 1770 and is included in the inventory of 24 August 1794 of the contents of the château de Louveciennes. See David Peters, Sèvres Plates and Services of the 18th Century (2005), II, pp. 435f., for a full discussion of the service, of which twelve plates are in the Royal Collection (acquired by George IV, see G. de Bellaigue, French Porcelain the the Collection of Her Majesty The Queen (2009), II, cat. no. 156). A compotier coquille was sold in these rooms, 5 July 2018, lot 204.

    The 1770 sale ledgers of the service lists 3 seaux à bouteille at a price of 240 livres each. The third seau à bouteille from the service was in the collection of Baron Achille Seillière, Chateau de Mello, sold at Sale Galerie Georges Petit, Paris, 9 March 1911, lot 41 (part), then at Christie's London, 6 October 1986, lot 254 and again at Christie's New York, 19 May 2004. A group of similarly decorated pieces not part of the service are also known, some of which were in the same sale in Paris in 1911. Two bottle coolers from this group were sold at Christie's London, 1 July 1985, lot 42, and are now in the Powerhouse Museum (part of the Museum of Applied Arts) in Sydney. The decoration differs in both the size of the panels with putti, which are much larger and fill almost the whole space on each side, and the reserved gilt-edged bands of berried laurel, which have small corners at each junction to the putti panels, instead of a smooth curve. These differences in decoration seem to be consistent within that whole group of similarly decorated pieces.

    It seems likely that the Comtesse du Barry commissioned the service during her early rise to power at Versailles, when she was establishing her influence and position at court as the new maîtresse-en-titre. Due to its small size, it must have been meant for small intimate and influential gatherings, either at Versailles or the Château de Louveciennes, which Louis XV had given her in 1769. At 60 livres a plate it was rather an expensive and opulent purchase, clearly meant as a status symbol demonstrating her importance at Versailles. It therefore does not surprise that at this early stage in her life as the King's favourite, she would have tried to further cement her position and ingratiate herself to the court by including an inscription to the marriage of the Dauphin on a cooler.

    Madame du Barry was born Jeanne Bécu on 19 April 1743, the illegitimate daughter of a seamstress in Lorraine. She was considered a great beauty and became a courtesan in the highest circles of Parisian society under the name of Mademoiselle Lange. During this time she befriended the Maréchal de Richelieu who would later become one of her staunch supporters at court. In 1768 Jeanne caught the eye of Louis XV who fell in love with her and arranged her marriage to Comte Guillaume du Barry, so that she would have a title and could eventually become his maîtresse-en-titre. During these early stages of her relationship with the King, she found herself up against some strong opposition at court and was ostracised from life at Versailles. Most pronounced was the antagonism of the duc de Choiseul, Minister of Foreign Affairs, who even went so far as to discuss a potential marriage of the recently widowed King with the Austrian Archduchess Elisabeth, eldest daughter of Empress Maria Theresa, with the Austrian ambassador, the Comte de Mercy-Argenteau. Madame du Barry was finally officially presented to the court at Versailles on 22 April 1769 and any plans for the King's remarriage were shelved, as Jeanne took her place as Louis' official mistress. With the help of the Maréchal de Richelieu and his nephew, the duc d'Aiguillon, who were bitter enemies of the duc de Choiseul, she started to cement her position at court.

    In the spring of 1770 the duc de Choiseul, who was to fall from grace Christmas of the same year, saw his position strengthened for a short time, as the whole of France prepared to celebrate the royal wedding he had orchestrated: the marriage of the Dauphin to Maria Antonia of Austria, the youngest daughter of Empress Maria Theresa, later known as Marie-Antoinette. To the surprise of many, Louis XV defied convention and invited his still fairly new mistress to what was mainly a family gathering, the royal supper party at the Château de La Muette on 15 May 1770, the night before the wedding. It was the first time the favourite met the new Dauphine and before Marie-Antoinette's well-known antipathy towards the Comtesse du Barry manifested itself. The Dauphine would later not speak to, or even acknowledge the latter's presence, which eventually resulted in the King's complaints to the Comte de Mercy-Argenteau who in turn passed these on to Maria Theresa. After increasing pressure from her mother and the ambassador, she finally indirectly spoke to her on 1 January 1772 uttering the famous phrase: "There are a lot of people today at Versailles."

    At the end of April 1774 the King contracted smallpox and Madame du Barry sat at his sickbed until he asked her to leave on 4 May, in the knowledge that he was dying. She left Versailles and retired to the duc d'Aiguillon's estates near Rueil. Louis XV died on 10 May and Madame du Barry was exiled to the Abbaye du Pont-aux-Dames. She was eventually allowed to leave in May 1775 and later able to return to the Château de Louveciennes, where she lived until her arrest during the French Revolution. She was executed on 8 December 1793.
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A pair of Sèvres bottle coolers from a service for Madame du Barry, circa 1770
A pair of Sèvres bottle coolers from a service for Madame du Barry, circa 1770
A pair of Sèvres bottle coolers from a service for Madame du Barry, circa 1770
A pair of Sèvres bottle coolers from a service for Madame du Barry, circa 1770
A pair of Sèvres bottle coolers from a service for Madame du Barry, circa 1770
A pair of Sèvres bottle coolers from a service for Madame du Barry, circa 1770
A pair of Sèvres bottle coolers from a service for Madame du Barry, circa 1770
A pair of Sèvres bottle coolers from a service for Madame du Barry, circa 1770
A pair of Sèvres bottle coolers from a service for Madame du Barry, circa 1770
A pair of Sèvres bottle coolers from a service for Madame du Barry, circa 1770
A pair of Sèvres bottle coolers from a service for Madame du Barry, circa 1770
A pair of Sèvres bottle coolers from a service for Madame du Barry, circa 1770
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