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  3.20 Portrait busts of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette  

©Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Portrait busts of Louis XVI, probably by LOUIS-SIMON BOIZOT, 1743-1809, and Marie Antoinette; c1785-8

Sèvres, biscuit porcelain
37.5 x 27.8 x 17.5 cm;
40.7 x 25.8 x 15 cm

Unknown French Artist

memorandum by M.Regnier, Director of the Royal Porcelain Factory at Sèvres, recorded the presentation of Louis XVI's gifts to Tipu's ambassadors on 12th September 1788. This elaborate diplomatic gesture included a collection of over 250 pieces of Sevres porcelain, specially prepared at the Royal Factory, with sixteen vases, seven toilet basins, six flat 'English bowls', thirty-six coffee cups, ninety-six plates, huqqas and spittoons for Tipu and six busts of the King and Queen. The ambassadors declared that 'these would remind them every moment of their lives of their gracious and unforgettable welcome'. . The initials of the Factory's Artistic Director, ' LR' i.e. Joseph Le Riche, are incised on the base of the figure of Louis XVI, together with the number '15' which identifies the modeller.

Friendship of Tipu and of his father, Haidar Ali, had secured for the French most of the advantages which they enjoyed in India at this period. Tipu, through his ambassadors, had asked Louis XVI for 6,000 French troops, to be dispatched to Mysore. A contemporary Memoir records that 'The Prince engages to furnish the whole French Army with the necessary provisions, such as Rice, Meat, Ghee &c. Spirituous liquors he cannot supply: he will provide the French Army with carriage for the Officers and for their Baggage. He will also provide all Military stores.' No French military aid was forthcoming, and ten years later, after a brief experiment with French republicanism, Tipu resumed his quest for French military aid in correspondence with Napoleon Buonaparte. It was a correspondence which was to have fatal consequences.

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