They form part of a service originally consisting of 41 pieces made between 1717-19 for Charlotte-Aglaé d’Orléans on the occasion of her marriage to Francois III d’Este, Duke of Modena, in 1720 and are attributed to the goldsmith Nicolas Besnier. The ensemble is “one of the most important and complete groups of silver made by one of the greatest goldsmiths,” added the auction house.
Of the 12 recorded services made for the Orléans family, the Duchess of Modena’s is the most important and complete to survive. While much early French silver was melted down at the Revolution, this service survived by being sent to Modena. It was listed in the duchess’s probate valuation and was given to her second daughter Mathilde, passing down by descent.
Offered as seven lots in Christie’s Exceptional sale in Paris on November 27, they comprised a rectangular casket sold for €800,000 (£683,760); two smaller powder boxes at €700,000 (£598,290); a baluster shaped spittoon for €150,000 (£128,205); a ewer and basin at €800,000 (£683,760); a perfume bottle for €300,000 (£256,410); a footed tray and brush at €150,000 (£128,205); and a pair of covered pots for €100,000 (£85,470) – this last pair attributed to Pierre Guyard or Philibert Guynot.
Five of the lots (all bar the casket and pair of powder boxes) were purchased at the auction by the Louvre Museum which exercised its right of pre-emption to secure them at the fall of the hammer.