The Madison family long believed that this plate was part of a service formerly owned by Marie Antoinette; while pieces of the service resemble one made for the French queen, our research indicates this and matching extant plates owned by the Madisons were made at the Sèvres Manufactory as part of a twenty-four piece dessert service for the Duc de Duras in 1786. Six additional pieces were made for him in 1789. Following the duke’s death in 1789, the service was sold at an auction in Paris and later obtained by James Monroe while he was serving as Minister Plenipotentiary in France. Monroe subsequently sold the service to James and Dolley Madison along with other household goods in 1803.
Following Madison’s death, the service dispersed. This particular plate descended through the Madison and Willis families and was donated to the Montpelier Foundation in 2007 by direct descendants of Madison’s niece, Nelly Conway Willis. Sherds of a matching plate have been found by Montpelier archaeologists in retirement-era trash deposits. Additional pieces from the service were taken to Washington by Dolley following the sale of Montpelier in 1844. At the dispersal of Dolley’s estate in 1851, her neighbor Benjamin Ogle Tayloe purchased five plates from the set, noting in his memoir that he later presented one to Lord Napier, the British Ambassador in Washington, who was a noted collector of French porcelain.