Napoleon I, Emperor of the French - Sevres Portrait Medallion, 1809
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Overall diameter: 15.5cm (6.1in)
Sevres biscuit blue and white relief portrait of Napoleon I in profile facing left, stamped on the truncated shoulder 'ANDRIEU F’. Reverse of the biscuit plaque inscribed in blue script: ‘Sevres / M Imp 1809’. Contained in a period burnished ormolu (gilt bronze) circular frame with laurel leaf pattern and milled borders, suspension loop and plain backplate.
The present plaque is a testament to Napoleon as a propagandist and as supporter of France’s luxury goods trade in the wake of the Revolution. Under the ancien régime the Sevrès porcelain factory was owned by the King and produced many spectacular services, vases and biscuit sculptures for foreign kings, princes, dukes and cardinals. It unsurprisingly languished during the austerity of the Revolutionary period but in 1800 Napoleon acknowledged it could continue to supply diplomatic gifts and placed it under the direction of his brother Lucien. Lucien brought in Alexandre Brongniart an engineer who quickly re-organised the factory, dismissing half the 220 staff and abandoning soft-paste porcelain entirely in favour of his own hard-paste composition. The head and shoulders bust, styled after the Antique with short cropped hair and ribbon-tied laurel crown, is taken from the model by Napoleon’s principal medallist Jean-Bertrand Andrieu (1761-1822).