This ice pail, long ago one of a pair, was part of a dessert service named “Marly d’Or with Grey-painted Laurel Leaves and Cameo-style Heads” that Napoleon presented to Frederick I, King of Württemberg, in 1809. In December of that year, following the Austrian campaign, that monarch, who was a loyal ally of the Emperor, travelled to Paris. Invited to visit the Sèvres Manufactory’s workshops, he caught sight of the decoration of the service, then in the process of being made, and was quite taken by it. Originally intended for another purpose, the Imperial Household administration decided to add it to the list of gifts Napoleon, for reasons of diplomacy, wished to send Frederick as a token of his friendship.
Of that magnificent service, the ice pail and a plate are the only pieces, as far as we are aware, still in existence. While we know that the plates were adorned with heads in profile, in imitation of ancient Roman cameos, it can be seen that the ice pail has full-length figures. One of its medallions shows the god Mercury, the caduceus in his hand; the other depicts the hero Perseus holding the freshly severed head of Medusa on his back.
This work has been presented in tribute to Ben Weider by his family on the occasion of his collection finding a new home in the Michal and Renata Hornstein Pavilion for Peace.