Fruit or flower basket, 1823
Sèvres Manufactory (French, 1740–present); Designer: Louis-Martin Berthault (French,1770–1823); Designer: Pierre-Louis Micaud (French, active 1795–1834)
H. 14 3/16 in. (36 cm), Gr. Diam. 16 in. (40.6 cm)
Marks:  crossed Ls enclosing fleur-de-lis and Sèvres 23 stamped in blue (factory mark and year letter for 1823);  MC 6 mars 23 in gold (decorator’s mark);  2-g incised
Purchase, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Wrightsman, by exchange, 1985 (1985.119)
This basket is one of the most spectacular products of the Sèvres factory made during the first quarter of the nineteenth century. While the factory archives often provide copious amounts of information concerning the manufacture and sale of important objects such as this basket, surprisingly little is known about its origins and history. It may have been one of a pair, and one can assume that they were intended to be the focal points of a complex, multipart centerpiece intended to decorate the table during the dessert course. The large size and ambitious design of the basket, which perhaps was intended for fruit or flowers, conveys a sense of the scale and grandeur of the dining table setting in the first third of the nineteenth century.
The design for the basket is attributed to Louis-Martin Berthault (active 1785–1823), and it appears that he included it among the designs he submitted to Empress Joséphine in 1814 for a new dessert service. Joséphine’s service was never produced, however, and it remains unknown why and for whom this basket was made nine years later.