Tea and coffee service

ARTIST / MAKER: Sèvres porcelain factory (manufacturer)
DATE: Unknown
PLACE: Unknown
MATERIALS AND TECHNIQUES: Hard-paste and soft-paste porcelain painted with enamel decoration and gilding

In 1756, the French porcelain manufactory Vincennes was transferred to larger quarters at Sèvres, a town on the other side of Paris. It was bought shortly afterwards by Louis XV at the request of his mistress, Madame de Pompadour. Sèvres quickly became the most important French porcelain manufactory, excelling in the production of soft-paste porcelain which lent itself to the decorative effects of enamel painting and gilding, with the manufactory being considered responsible for starting the trend of using porcelain for dinner services, instead of silver.

Part of a larger service, this tea and coffee set was commissioned by the Spanish Ambassador, the Marquis del Campo, to celebrate the recovery of King George III from illness. Decorated with oak branches and caducei, a central gilded letter G is bordered by mottoes celebrating the King, with phrases such as ‘God save the King’, ‘The Patron of Arts’ and ‘Glory to the King’. It was presented at a gala held in the Rotunda of the Ranelagh gardens in Chelsea on the 9th of June 1789, where Queen Charlotte was guest of honour.

Initially gifted to Queen Charlotte, the set was split up in 1904 when George III’s grandson, the 2nd Duke of Cambridge, left a half to each of his sons, Adolphus and Augustus. The half in the Chitra collection was passed to Sir Adolphus’ great nephew, General Sir Victor Fitzgeorge-Balfour, while the other half was bought by Queen Mary in 1934 and forms part of the Royal Collection.