The Wallace Collection

The Wallace Collection, A Family Collection, A National Museum, An International Treasure House
Ecritoire 'à globes'
  • Inkstand
  • Ecritoire 'à globes'
  • Manufacture de Sèvres
  • Jean-Claude Chambellan Duplessis, the Elder (1695 - 1774), Designer
    Possibly Charles-Nicolas Dodin (1734 - 1803), Painter, (cherubs)
  • Sèvres, France
  • 1758 - 1759
  • Soft-paste porcelain painted and gilded and silver-gilt mounts
  • Object size: 17 x 38 x 27.1 cm
  • Factory mark: Interlaced Ls and 'F', probably the date letter for 1758 - 1759
  • C488
  • Back State Room
Commentary
History
Images & Media
Further Reading
  • Made of soft-paste porcelain, this inkstand combines all the ingenuity, technical brilliance and vibrant colours for which the Sèvres manufactory was renowned in the 18th century and is one of the finest pieces of porcelain in the Wallace Collection. It comprises a large undulating oval plateau supported by elaborately scrolled feet, on which are set terrestrial and celestial globes and a cushion in the centre supporting a crown. The plateau acted as a pen-tray, while the globes housed silver-gilt liners which served in one as an inkwell and in the other as a container for the sand or powdered metal that was used to dry wet ink (like blotting paper). The crown originally contained a bell, for ringing a servant to take away letters when written.

    The designer of the inkstand was Jean-Claude Chambellan Duplessis (c. 1695-1774). It is decorated with a green ground (fonds verd), in use regularly at Sèvres from 1756, and is painted in two white reserves with cherubs after Boucher, one holding a wreath of flowers and the other a dove, perhaps by Charles-Nicolas Dodin (1734-1803). The celestial globe is pricked with holes that match the position of the stars in the sky; the liner inside would have twinkled brightly through these when not in use. The gilding is of superb quality and includes inscriptions showing the longitude and latitude of major cities and the signs of the zodiac.

    The date letter ‘F’ on the underside denotes 1758; although the inkstand does not appear in the sales records for Sèvres, the royal imagery on it suggests that it may have been a present from Louis XV for his daughter Marie-Adélaïde. Medallions on the base depict the head of the French king, the gilded monogram ‘MA’, and gilded fleurs de lis, the emblem of the French monarch. The monogram has caused some confusion in the past, and when the 4th Marquess of Hertford bought it in 1843 it was described as having belonged to Marie Antoinette, Louis XV’s granddaughter-in-law. However, from a stylistic point of view this is highly unlikely as Marie Antoinette did not arrive in France until 1770 when this kind of rococo decoration was no longer in vogue at Sèvres; moreover, one of the medallions on the base shows three fleur de lis within a lozenge shape, a motif denoting an unmarried French princess.