The teapot comes from a service that Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821) gave to his sister Pauline (1780-1825) when she established a home in Paris at the hôtel de Charost. The light lilac ground was a fashionable color in post-revolutionary France, a time when interior designers experimented with new and unusual colors and color combinations, and one of the boudoirs in the hôtel de Charost was painted in a similar color. The figure subjects are painted in brown and highlighted in gold. On one side of the teapot the subject is Neptune with the trident in his right hand, riding on a shell through the waves, and drawn by creatures that are half-fish and half-horse. On the other side the subject is Pluto with Cerberus, the three-headed hound of hell, pulled by two hybrid monsters. The Sèvres painting of Pluto closely resembles a print by Bernard Picart, dated 1727.
The teapot has a form resembling a classical Greek urn. The light lilac ground on the pot and cover has dark purple ornament painted in overglaze enamel. A Greek key pattern circles the pot below the shoulder, and a foliate frieze circles the foot of the pot. On the pot's shoulder a purple foliate pattern is punctuated by a gold floral medallion, and on the cover a palmette pattern circles the gold finial. The spout, handle, and foot are heavily gilded.
See Liana Paredes, 2009, exhibition catalog “Sèvres Then and Now: Tradition and Innovation in Porcelain, 1750-2000”, p.73, p.148.
This teapot belongs to the Alfred Duane Pell collection in the National Museum of American History. Before Pell (1864-1924) became an Episcopalian clergyman quite late in life, he and his wife Cornelia Livingstone Crosby Pell (1861-1938) travelled widely, and as they travelled they collected European porcelains, silver, and furniture. Pell came from a wealthy family and he purchased the large William Pickhardt Mansion on 5th Avenue and East 74th Street in which to display his vast collection. The Smithsonian was one of several institutions to receive substantial bequests from the Reverend Pell which laid the foundation for their collections of European applied arts.