The Wallace Collection

The Wallace Collection, A Family Collection, A National Museum, An International Treasure House
Seaux 'à glace'
  • Four Ice-cream Coolers
  • Seaux 'à glace'
  • Manufacture de Sèvres
  • Charles-Nicolas Dodin (1734 - 1803), Painter, (flowers)
    Raux (1753 - 1779), Painter, (bas-reliefs and trophy)
    Etienne-Henry Le Guay, The Elder (1719 - 1799), Gilder
    Jean-Pierre Boulanger (1722 - 1785), Gilder
    Charles Buteux (1719 - 1782), Painter, (monogram)
  • Sèvres, France
  • 1778 - 1779 (ice-cream cooler and cover)
  • Soft-paste porcelain, painted and gilded, hard-paste porcelain cameos and gilt-copper
  • C476, Object size: 23.2 x 26 cm
    C477, Object size: 25.2 x 25.7 cm
    C478, Object size: 23.7 x 26.2 cm
    C479, Object size: 24 x 26 cm
  • Factory mark: Interlaced Ls enclosing 'aa' the date letter for 1778
    Gilder's mark: 'B' for Jean-Pierre Boulanger op. 1754-85
    Incised mark: 'Bono Ier' for the répareur Etienne-Henry Bono op. 1754-81
    'D'
    Factory mark: Interlaced Ls enclosing 'AA' the date letter for 1778
    Painter's mark: 'K' for Dodin
    Painter's mark: A circle of dots for Raux
    Gilder's mark: 'LG', in grey, for Le Guay
    Inscription: 'No 1' and 'XX'
    Factory mark: Interlaced Ls enclosing 'aa' the date letter for 1778
    Painter's mark: 'h' for Jacques-François-Louis de Laroche
    Factory mark: Interlaced Ls enclosing 'BB' the date letter for 1779
    Painter's mark: 'FB' for Barrat op. 1769-91, 1795-6
  • C476-9
  • Porphyry Court
Commentary
History
Images & Media
  • From 1776-9, the manufactory worked on their hitherto most challenging commission, a service for 60 place settings, which encompassed 797 pieces and was ordered by Catherine II of Russia. Reflecting the Empress's personal taste, it was the first service made at Sèvres in the newly fashionable neoclassical style and thus required the creation of entirely new shapes and moulds. It was to become one of the most expensive services ever produced in a European factory. The total cost of over 330 000 livres was not paid until 1792, closely averting the manufactory’s bankruptcy.
    The plates alone were redesigned eight times and 3,000 pieces were produced to ensure that the ones required were of sufficient quality. The service was divided into three sections: a dinner and dessert service, a tea and coffee service, and a biscuit centrepiece of 91 figures, which featured a bust of Minerva – representing Catherine – surrounded by the Muses.

    The dinner and dessert service included ten ice-cream coolers, four of which are now at the Wallace Collection. They originally had liners for the ice-cream or sorbet (drunk in a semi-liquid state from ice-cream cups) which sat on a bed of crushed ice and salt in the outer bowl. The deep-walled cover also contained crushed ice for further insulation.
    The urn-shaped bucket has handles formed by caryatid figures, a band of leaves, lines of pearl beading, and elaborate cameo heads which were produced separately and cut from hard-paste porcelain. The design also wittily reflects the use of the pieces with the gilded icicles and fountain handles on their covers.
    Both pieces are decorated with a turquoise-blue (bleu céleste) ground colour, which was the most expensive colour at the time, and specifically requested by the Empress. The decoration also includes painted cameos, trophies, bas-reliefs, garlands of flowers, and generous gilding. The Empress's monogram is painted in a medallion on the cover.

    The service would have been used by Catherine for state functions, and when not in use perhaps displayed on a table. Replacement pieces were ordered from the Imperial porcelain factory during the reigns of Nicholas I (1825-1855) and Alexander III (1881-1894).
    Part of the service, looted during a fire in the Hermitage in 1837, arrived in London and was acquired by Lord Lonsdale. In 1856 he appears to have sold most of his pieces to the 4th Marquess of Hertford, who kept for himself the six pieces in the Wallace Collection today (see the four ice-cream coolers C476-9), and sold the remainder back to Alexander II. Today, nearly 700 pieces remain in the Hermitage.

    The gilt-bronze mounts were added in the nineteenth century in England. With their prominent French royal emblems, they promoted the mistaken belief that Louis XV had presented Catherine II with the service. They typify not only the delight of English collectors in objects with royal association, but also their passion for embellishing dinner wares to render them more acceptable as ornamental works of art.