Cup and saucer with portrait of Benjamin Franklin (Sèvres), 1778
Philadelphia Museum of Art
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Philadelphia Museum of Art

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The cup is in the shape called litron in the pottery's 18th-century catalogue: cylindrical, flaring only slightly from foot to lip. Its exterior is covered with a royal or cobalt blue ground (called beau bleu), broken by an oval space opposite the handle. Within that oval, the white body of the cup provides the medium for a trompe l'oeil profile portrait of Franklin rendered in grisaille or beige, to approximate a bas-relief in stone or clay.

The saucer's upper surface is covered with the same royal blue enamel, overlaid with gilt scrollwork broken at three points by gold cartouches containing putti. In the center is a white disk onto which is painted a trompe l'oeil rococo ornamental motif in beige, creating the illusion of low relief plaster or stone. The border between the central disk and the royal blue rim is emphasized by a wide band of relief gilding.

Made by the French royal porcelain factory at Sèvres, the cup was painted by Nicholas-Pierre Pithou the Younger, active 1762-1818, and gilded by Henri-Martin Presvost or Prevost, active 1757-1797. Painters' records from the Sèvres factory list 14 sets of blue-ground cups and saucers painted there between November 1778 and February 1779, six of them by Pithou the Younger. Marks: crowned interlaced L's with two overlapping A's within, with PT and HP below.

The Wallace Collection in London contains a cup and saucer of similar design, though with minor differences (catalogue number C350); these were gilded by Etienne-Henri LeGuay (1819-ca.1799), gilder at Sèvres from 1773. They can be seen on the Collection's website,, by searching Works of Art, and the highlighted "sevres porcelain."

Other examples are in the collections of the Hillwood Museum and Gardens, Washington, DC, and the Art Institute of Chicago. The pieces at the Hillwood Museum were painted by Louis Antoine LeGrand and gilded by LeGuay. The Victoria and Albert Museum, London, owns a cup signed in lilac enamel "LG" for LeGuay. Its catalogue number is C.1442-1919, and it can be seen on the "Search the Collections" section of their website: Terms of Use Credits