In 1783 Louis XVI commissioned an impressive new dinner service for the palace of Versailles, including this wine bottle cooler. By the time the king was executed in 1793, less than half of the proposed 442 pieces had been completed by the Sèvres Porcelain Manufactory. For example, of the twenty-four wine coolers ordered, only nine were ever finished. Wine coolers were placed on the table or sideboard and filled with ice or cold water to chill the wine. Both the dark, even background color and the detailed reserve scenes are of the very highest quality and indicate that this wine cooler was made for a royal client. The dark blue ground color, known in the factory archives as beau bleu (beautiful blue), was extremely difficult to fire. Without careful application, the color became patchy and uneven in the kiln or could bleed into other areas of the design. The central reserves are carefully painted with scenes from classical antiquity: one illustrates Hercules while the other shows Mentor. The reserve "Mentor at Salentum" is from an engraving by Jean-Baptiste Tilliard, after a painting by Charles Monnet. The reserve scene "Hercules" is based on an engraving by Georg Haas, after a painting by Jean-Baptiste-Marie Pierre. Gilding has been attributed to Étienne-Henri Le Guay.


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