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Work Tureen and platter

Department of Decorative Arts: 18th century: rococo


© 2002 RMN / Martine Beck-Coppola

Decorative Arts
18th century: rococo

Barbier Muriel

The tureen in the Louvre was part of the famous Penthièvre-Orléans table service. The set, originally commissioned by Louis-Alexandre de Bourbon, Count of Toulouse (1678-1737), was augmented several times by various goldsmiths. The tureen, with its oval and curved form, is the work of Edme-Pierre Balzac (1705-after 1781) who produced two identical ones for this service. The second tureen is now in the Metropolitan Museum, New York.

What is a tureen?

A tureen is an oval-shaped recipient, generally set on a platter, which is fit with a liner and presented with a large oval spoon and a serving fork. Its origin is somewhat of a mystery. This type of vessel is probably a luxury version of the more humble earthenware with neither feet nor handles used in the kitchen to prepare pâtés. On the other hand, it seems that silver tureens were meant for dishes that were more like stews.
Set on the table along with round-shaped pots-à-oille, tureens were a major part of dinner services. In the first half of the 18th century, tureens and pots-à-oille appeared in services in equal numbers that were always the same, but this equilibrium did not last.

The Penthièvre-Orléans service

The oldest pieces of the service were produced by Thomas Germain (1673-1748) for Louis-Alexandre de Bourbon, Count of Toulouse, third legitimated child of Louis XIV and Madame de Montespan, Great Admiral of France and Master of the Hunt. The son of the Count of Toulouse, Louis-Jean-Marie de Bourbon, Duke of Penthièvre (1725-1793) commissioned a second group of pieces for the set. This order was divided between two goldsmiths, Antoine-Sébastien Durand and Edme-Pierre Balzac. The Duke's daughter, Louise-Marie-Adélaïde de Bourbon inherited the service after her father died. She married Louis-Joseph-Philippe, Duke of Orléans, and the silver pieces were then passed on to the House of Orléans. After the Terror, the Duchess of Orléans managed to retrieve her possessions, and upon her death, the silver was bequeathed to her son Louis-Philippe, Duke of Orléans (1773-1850), who had the family arms engraved on the service. Following the duke's decease, the set was broken up and sold off by his descendants. Balzac's tureen was part of the group ordered by the Duke of Penthièvre. The liner was added by Jean-Claude Odiot during the time of Louis-Philippe.

A repertoire of rocaille ornaments with a hunting theme

The curved body of the tureen stands on four feet shaped like celery stalks. The celery leaves cover the sides, forming the handles. On the front and back, a rocaille cartouche encloses the arms added in the 19th century. The rim is circled with a frieze of ovolu, entrelac and acanthus foliage. A chased border of oak leaves surrounds the lid, surmounted with a finial formed by a group sculpted in the round and representing a stag attacked by two dogs. These various ornaments evoke the hunt, a theme very popular with the aristocracy and the court. The venison and the celery also refer to the tureen's content. The curving and elaborately carved forms of the recipient are still very much influenced by the rocaille fashion of the 1730s. However, certain ornaments point to a more sober evolution of this style, specifically the frieze of ovolu. Also noteworthy is the decision to leave certain areas perfectly smooth rather than decorate them.


Versailles et les tables royales en Europe, Catalogue d'exposition, Versailles, 1993, pp. 275-280.

Technical description

  • Edme-Pierre BALZAC (Gien, 1705 - after 1786)


    Paris, 1757-58 (terrine); 1763-64 (tray)

  • Cast, repoussé and chased silver

    H. 26 cm; W. 40.50 cm; D. 23.80 cm

  • Made for Louis-Jean-Marie de Bourbon, Duc de Penthièvre (1725-93); collection of Louise-Marie-Adélaïde de Bourbon-Penthièvre, Duchesse d’Orléans; Louis-Philippe, Duc d’Orléans and King of France in 1830; Maison d’Orléans; former Arturo Lopez-Willshaw collection; gift of M. and Mme Edmond Safra, 1995 , 1995

    OA 11363, OA 11364

  • Decorative Arts

    Sully wing
    1st floor
    Porcelain room
    Room 605

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