Palace of versailles

The Palace of Versailles buys a Chinese silver ewer by mutual agreement

The silver ewer offered to Louis XIV as a gift by a Siamese ambassador mission to Versailles in 1686. It was acquired by the Palace of Versailles as part of a private sale through the intermediary of the Beaussant Lefèvre auction house. Image copyright: Studio Sebert – Beaussant Lefèvre.

The engraved and partly gilded ewer was discovered by members of the auction house during an appraisal and was then the subject of research.

It bears the crowned arms of France and the three crowns at the base indicating that it was royal property since the reign of the Sun King. It also has inventory numbers attesting to its presence in the royal collections at the end of the 17th and the beginning of the 18th century. It was declared a national treasure.

silver ewer

Detail of the decoration of the 17th century silver ewer acquired by the Palace of Versailles. Image copyright: Studio Sebert – Beaussant Lefèvre.

In 1686 Siamese ambassadors brought a large cache of gifts including carpets, lacquer and 80 pieces of gold and silverware to Versailles to present to Louis XIV on behalf of King Narai of Siam who was pictured by his Foreign Minister Kosa Pan.

This was the third Siamese diplomatic mission to Versailles in the 1680s after visits in 1681 and 1684. Louis had also in turn sent his own diplomatic missions to Siam for trade purposes and to convert King Narai to Catholicism.

For both countries, these missions were underpinned by commercial and political objectives. Siam’s objective was to interest France in becoming a privileged trading partner. For Louis XIV, the goal was to assert France’s influence and achieve commercial victory over Holland.

Eventually the diplomatic missions were unsuccessful as in 1688 King Narai was overthrown and replaced by Phetracha, who closed Siam to all westerners except the Dutch.

The price paid for the ewer was not disclosed.