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Work 36 Pieces from the Egyptian Cabaret Set of Napoleon I
Department of Decorative Arts: 19th century
Cabaret égyptien de Napoléon Ier
© Musée du Louvre / Martine Beck-Coppola
These thirty-six porcelain pieces decorated with Egyptian motifs are from the cabaret set - or breakfast service - of Napoleon I delivered to the Palais des Tuileries in 1810. This was the fourth cabaret set produced by the Manufacture de Sèvres during the First Empire. It features reproductions of engravings from Voyage dans la Basse et la Haute Égypte by Dominique Vivant Denon (1747-1825), thus attesting to the early nineteenth century's fascination with Egyptian civilization.
The seven "Egyptian cabaret sets"
The Manufacture de Sèvres produced seven cabaret sets. The pieces in the Louvre are from the fourth. Shapes and composition vary from one service to another, as does the ornamentation culled from Dominique Vivant Denon's book on Egypt. The first set was given by Napoleon I to Czar Alexander I in 1808. The second, for Joséphine, is now in the Château de la Malmaison. The third was also delivered to Joséphine at the Palais des Tuileries, and the fourth to Napoleon on March 31, 1810 to be used at the palace. The fifth was given to the Duchess de Montebello in 1813, the sixth to the Duchess de Bassano, and the seventh to the Countess de Luçay. Napoleon enjoyed his set very much. He gave pieces from it to his close relatives and took the rest with him to Saint Helena.
The shapes of the cabaret set are not in the least Egyptian, but are, for the larger pieces, generally fanciful interpretations of Etruscan vases. The creamer with its trefoil spout is a shape created in 1806. Various pieces from antiquity may have been used as models, such as items from Vivant Denon's collection, which was sold in 1786. The "Pestum" sugar pots were some of the first created after Brongniart was made head of the Manufacture de Sèvres in 1800. The "Etruscan" pot with handles first appeared in 1806. Its name implies it was inspired by an ancient model. The milk jug with its long spout, also designed in 1806, may likewise be inspired by antiquity. The shape of the "litron" cups, little cylindrical cups with a handle, dates back to the early years of the Manufacture de Vincennes and is still used today.
Napoleon's 1798 Egyptian campaign was popularized by publications that enabled the French public to discover Egyptian civilization and helped brush the military defeat aside. Dominique Vivant Denon had convinced Napoleon to let him come along. He brought back the watercolors that were published in his book Le Voyage dans la Basse et la Haute Égypte (six reprints between 1802 and 1810). Another book, La Description de l'Égypte, published by the Institut d'Égypte, also presented the result of his studies. Architects and craftsmen used these illustrated compilations for inspiration. A wave of "Egyptomania" swept over the decorative arts in France during the Consulate and First Empire. The cups of Napoleon I's cabaret set are decorated with square panels depicting views of Egypt painted by Lebel, including the temple of Tentyra, the pyramid of Maydum, the city of Thebes, the island of Philae, or the lighthouse of Alexandria. On the saucers, Béranger painted the heads of local figures (a Bedouin, a sheikh, a Coptic monk) in sepia. Under each portrait is a caption in gold letters (the gilding is the work of Micaud fils). All the objects on blue ground are enhanced with decorative friezes of hieroglyphics.
BibliographyExposition Dominique Vivant-Denon, L'oeil de Napoléon, Paris, 1999, pp. 294-299.
Exposition Égyptomania, Paris, 1994, p. 240.
Manufacture de Sèvres
Cabaret égyptien de Napoléon Ier
Milk jug (OA 9493/1): H. 21 cmTwo sugar pots (OA 9493/2 and 3): H. 11 cmOne sugar pot (OA 9493/4): H. 12.50 cmOne creamer (OA 9493/5): H. 11 cm17 cups (OA 9493/6 through 22): H. 6 cm14 saucers (OA 9493-23 through 26): Diam. 13 cm
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