The name Rockefeller is often taken as synonymous with collector and on May 8, Christie’s will offer the exquisitely expansive treasury of Peggy and David Rockefeller at auction. Among 253 lots of English and Continental furnishings owned by David and Peggy Rockefelle certainly stands out The ‘Marly Rouge‘ Service: circa 1807-09.
Painted with scattered butterflies, moths, bees, wasps, beetles and other insects, the plates with a further gold band reserved and painted with a ribbon-tied wreath of flowers, the border gilt with paired berried leaves extending off a central vine, comprising:
An ice-pail, cover and liner with elephant-head handles (glacière ‘Brachard’ ou ‘à tête d’eléphants’), finely painted to each side with a bouquet surrounded by insects
A pair of oval eagle-headed sauce-tureens or sugar-bowls, covers and navette shaped stands (sucriers ‘tête d’aigle’), the finials as eagle chicks hatching from eggs
A footed bowl (jatte ‘Hebé’)
Two compotes supported by four parcel gilt dolphins (compotiers ‘à pieds dauphins’)
Four slightly smaller footed compotes (compotiers ‘sans dauphins’)
Napoleon had originally ordered the 256-piece Sèvres dessert service for the palace in Compiègne, although records show it was delivered in October 1809 to the palace of Fontainebleau, where the Emperor had retired to after the gruelling negotiations of the Treaty of Vienna, which ended hostilities between France and Austria.
During his month-long stay at his favourite country retreat, Napoleon broke the news to his empress, Joséphine de Beauharnais, that he was divorcing her, as she had been unable to give him a son.
Today, only one dolphin-footed compote and six plates remain at Fontainebleau, all recent acquisitions.
Although plates have appeared on the art market in recent years, the portion of the service to be offered in The Collection of Peggy and David Rockefeller includes important pieces from the original delivery not seen on the art market since Abby Aldrich Rockefeller, David’s mother, acquired the part-service more than 75 years ago. Before Abby’s acquisition of what was the largest single collection of ‘Marly Rouge’ pieces, the service had been dispersed across the globe.