Meissen and Sèvres were the dominant factories here, the former accounting for almost half the sale content, although it was the latter that produced the day’s highest price.
Bonhams’ star lot was a selection from one of Sèvres’ most famous named services: the so-called service de dessert Marly Rouge ordered from the factory by Napoleon and delivered to him at the Palace of Fontainebleau in 1809.
Named services are always among the most desirable pieces from any factory and Napoleon was a particularly prolific patron in this arena. The vast Marly Rouge service comprised around 220 plates, 16 compotiers, four footed bowls, eight sugar bowls, two ice pails, two ice coolers and eight baskets.
The majority of the plates are famous for their decoration: a central butterfly motif surrounded by a a ribbon-tied wreath of flowers.
The service was among the property that went with Napoleon on his exile to Elba. It then passed to his brother Jerome and down through Jerome’s descendants.
Various pieces from the service have emerged at auction.
Bonhams itself has sold several including five plates this century, one of which returned to the Château of Fontainebleau for £35,000 in 2008, although the most dramatic auction result recently was for the hitherto unrecorded group of pieces sold by Christie’s from the Peggy and David Rockefeller auction in New York in May. An ice pail, two sugar bowls, a footed bowl, six compotiers and 12 plates were offered as one lot and sold for $1.5m (£1.14m).
Bonhams’ set of 12 plates may not have been offered in a sale with the associated glitz of a big-ticket Rockefeller build-up, but it boasted an unbroken provenance and had never before been on the market.
It was probably given as a wedding present by Ellen Bonaparte to her godson Robert Wood Williams in 1924 and passed by descent to the vendor.
The set found a buyer just under the lower end of the guide of £70,000- 90,000 guide at £65,000.
Meissen stands up
The highest price in the large Meissen section was the £27,000 paid for a rare 10½in (26cm) diameter circular stand of c.1730. It was painted to the centre with a distinctive medallion of flowerheads and foliage with a border of chinoiserie panels.
A number of pieces from Meissen armorial services also featured. The most expensive was a teabowl and saucer from the service given by Augustus the Strong to King Christian VI of Denmark which realised £12,000.
Early on in the auction among the Italian pieces there was strong demand for a 4in (10cm) white porcelain figure of a female dwarf from the Cozzi factory, c.1770-80, which realised a treble-estimate £8500.