Dish from the first Louis XV dinner service sells for £70,000 in Guildford

The rare porcelain dish

The rare porcelain dish - Credit: Picasa

Every month, our antiques expert Ali Heath, brings us all the latest – from the best fairs to where to bag a bargain or hunt out vintage gems

For those with a love of antiques, it is fabulous to see items at auction commanding as much attention today as they did two-and-a-half centuries ago.

Over in Guildford, local antiques dealers Wellers Auctioneers recently set a new house record selling a rare porcelain dish that belonged to King Louis XV, and was kept at the Palace of Versailles, for a record-breaking £70,000! With eight telephone bids and a heavily annotated commission book, it was finally bought by La Maison Vandermeersch, a specialist in European ceramics and especially of French porcelain.

Designed by the goldsmith Jean-Claude Duplessis, the Vincennes (Sevres), bleu céleste dish was part of an elegant dinner service created specially for Louis XV in the early 1750s.

Known as Louis the well-beloved (Louis le bien aimé), the flamboyant French royal was the monarch of the House of Bourbon and ruled as king of France and Navarre from September 1, 1715, until his death.

Path of true love

It was his favoured mistress, Madame de Pompadour, a patron of the arts, who fired the king’s passion for the talented artistry of Sevres manufacture and turned it into a profitable industry for France.

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The first Sevres porcelain was produced in 1745 in Vincennes and the king was so enchanted and supportive of both the porcelain and Madame De Pompadour that he decided to endorse the pieces, with each new item featuring his intertwined ‘L’ cipher.

He also moved the factory closer to his home of Versailles, in the town of Sevres, bought all the company shares and transformed its fortunes to become the official porcelain of France and one of the most famous in Europe.

As a result, the porcelain became coveted by the upper echelons of French society and was seen as a necessary status symbol. Comically, the king expected all visiting courtiers to purchase pieces from the ‘shop’ he set up in his own private quarters within Versailles.

The signature style and patterns were set against background colours of pink, bright green, yellow and blue – in fact, the dish sold at auction marked the introduction of bleu céleste shade, as well as many new shapes designed specifically for the service.

The collection was delivered to the king over a core period of three years from 1753 to 1755 and comprised an amazing total of 1,749 pieces at a price of 87,272 livres (the currency of France from 781 to 1795).

Since its inception, Sevres porcelain has been much admired, coveted and collected. If you ever discover a piece of this wonderful enduring love affair, it will probably prove to be a good investment.

Of course, whether you can bear to part with it though will be another story…


Ali Heath is the owner of Plum (see / To contact Ali about styling and writing commissions, e-mail