Cup and saucer

  • Designer / Maker

    The porcelain manufactured by Sèvres (1753-present)

    The silver-gilt manufactured by James Aldridge (fl.  1778-[?]1827)

  • Detail

    Hard paste porcelain and silver-gilt

    4 ¼ in (10.8 cm) – diameter of saucer; 2 in (5.1 cm) – height of cup

    French (Sèvres), circa 1780 – the porcelain

    English (London), 1827–28 – the silver-gilt

  • Provenance

    William Beckford (1760-1844)

  • Collection

    Art Institute of Chicago

  • Notes

    The Sèvres cup and saucer are examples of the short-lived production known as ‘des Indes’; see Aileen Dawson, French Porcelain: A Catalogue of the British Museum Collection, London, revised edition, 2000, no. 123. Given Beckford’s predilection for his family’s heraldry, the cinquefoil form of the cup and saucer may have had particular appeal. Beckford also owned, and highly prized, a silver-gilt mounted Sèvres coffee pot from the same series; see Derek Ostergard (ed.), William Beckford 1760–1844: An Eye for the Magnificent, New Haven & London, 2002, no. 63. The coffee pot is one of the objects recorded by Willes Maddox (Ostergard, op. cit., no. 155).

    Bet McLeod has identified the present cup and saucer, together with the coffee pot, as most likely to be the pieces in the 1844 inventory compiled by English & Son of Bath and Robert Hume of London, following Beckford’s death (Book 2, p. 31): ‘A Brown & White Coffee pot. Tea cup and saucer – lined – very rich’ (Bodleian Library, MS Beckford, c. 58). The cup and saucer were later recorded in the inventory taken at Hamilton Palace in the Tapestry Rooms, Sitting Room ‘Articles of Vertu in Ebony and Pietra Dura cabinet, from Beckford Collection: A small China Cup & Saucer Chocolate Ground with raised white Flowers, both lined with silver-gilt and engraved’ (Hamilton Muniments, Hamilton District Library, NRA (S) 3438, Hamilton Palace Inventory, 1876). In the Hamilton Palace sale it was described as: ‘A SMALL CUP AND SAUCER, chocolate ground, with flowers in relief, mounted with silver gilt’; it sold for 18 gns.

    The cup has been broken, and the silver-gilt handle replaces the original; this damage would appear to pre-date the intervention of Aldridge in 1827; see Sotheby’s (London), 5 March 1985, lot 120 for a pair of Sèvres cups and saucers ‘des Indes’, dated 1781 and retaining their original ceramic handles.

    A full report by Bet McLeod is available on request.