Butter Dish and Cover

From a service used by George Washington (President 1789-1797)

Made by Sèvres porcelain factory, Sèvres, France, 1756 - present. Possibly gilded by Léopold Weydinger, French, active 1757 - 1806.

Geography:
Made in Sevres, France, Europe

Date:
c. 1778

Medium:
Hard paste porcelain, lead glaze, gilded decoration

Dimensions:
3 5/8 x 8 7/16 inches (9.2 x 21.4 cm)

Curatorial Department:
American Art

* Gallery 106, American Art, first floor

Accession Number:
2006-3-16a,b

Credit Line:
Gift of the McNeil Americana Collection, 2006

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Additional information:
  • PublicationAmerican Presidential China: The Robert L. McNeil, Jr., Collection at the Philadelphia Museum of Art

    George Washington (1732–1799)
    President, 1789–97

    The first American president acknowledged the social importance of a fashionably equipped dining table as early as 1757 when, as a young bachelor, he ordered “fine china dishes” from an English merchant.1 Throughout his lifetime of public service and private occupation, George Washington participated substantially in matters of domestic taste and style. Memorabilia, including porcelains, from the Washington household have descended through the grandchildren of Martha Washington: Eliza Parke Custis Law (1776–1832), Martha Parke Custis Peter (1777–1854), Eleanor “Nelly” Parke Custis Lewis (1779–1852), and George Washington Parke Custis (1781–1857).

    President and Mrs. Washington served important banquets on pristine white French porcelain embellished only with gold dentate borders and accents. The service originally was assembled over a period of years by purchase from Sèvres and other factories in 1778 and later by Eléonore- Françoise-Elie, comte de Moustier (1751–1817), the French ambassador to the United States.2 President Washington purchased the porcelain from the French legation in New York in March 1790 after the comte de Moustier was recalled to France. Among the 309 pieces listed on the invoice were eight “cocottes,” four “butter boats,” two “iceries compleat,” and thirty-six “ice pots.”3 The dessert chiller cover matches another that survives with its base in the Peter collection at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. The latter bears the mark of Jean-Baptiste Locré’s factory of “German porcelain.” President Washington used this porcelain for official entertaining in New York and Philadelphia and for “genteel” dinners at Mount Vernon upon his retirement in 1797. Susan Gray Detweiler, from American Presidential China: The Robert L. McNeil, Jr. Collection at the Philadelphia Museum of Art (2008), pp. 24-30.

    Notes:
    1) “Invoice of goods shipped by Richd Washington to George Washington from London, per the Sally,” August 20, 1757. Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, George Washington Papers. Cited in Susan Gray Detweiler, George Washington’s Chinaware (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1982), p. 200.
    2) Manufacture Nationale de Sèvres, Registre de Vente, Vy 7, fol. 15, May 9, 1778. Cited in Detweiler, George Washington’s Chinaware, p. 193.
    3) Invoice for the “Save China.” Archives of the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association. Cited in Detweiler, George Washington’s Chinaware, pp. 123, 126.


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