The most important French porcelain factory was founded in 1740, in the Château Royal de Vincennes. In 1756 it transferred to Sèvres, on the other side of Paris, and shortly afterwards was bought by Louis XV at the request of his mistress Madame de Pompadour. By the time of the French Revolution however, the manufactory had experienced many upheavals to its production and without Royal patronage the output was forced to appeal to a new clientele, while the ruinous state of the French economy was reflected in the low demand for luxury porcelain. Despite this tremendous societal change, Sèvres managed to survive and some of its most original pieces’ date from this period.
The design of this cup and saucer, painted by Jean-Pierre Fumez, is based on the ‘Service Arabesque’, a service commissioned by Louis XVI in 1782 and inspired by arabesques after Raphael. A popular style, it was in high demand with many versions being copied. Its shape is similar to the Medici vase form, a style reintroduced in 1781, which was copied from models in the Louvre collection and encouraged the appreciation of inspiration from antiquity. The imitation porphyry decoration reflects the contemporary trend with hardstones which, along with materials such as Lapis Lazuli and marble, were imitated on porcelain. To achieve the speckled patterns and deep purple hue would have been difficult for the painters to attain, consequently, this type of decoration is rare, even on pieces that would have fetched high prices.