King's gift plates set to excite collectors

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TWO VIEWS inside the royal porcelain factory at Sevres painted on Sevres plates supplied to King Louis Philippe in 1836 are likely to send bidders crazy when they come up for sale at Christie's today. Their existence was known, but no one knew where they were. They offer an insight into porcelain making at one of the great European factories. Christie's estimate their value at pounds 18,000 to 25,000 each.

The plates come from a dessert service, called the Service des Arts Industriels, that the King gave to the Austrian politician, Prince Metternich. It contained 108 plates - most of which are missing - each hand-painted with a different industrial scene, from burning charcoal to making top hats.

When last year Christie's produced two dozen hitherto unknown plates from the service, there was tremendous excitement and 13 of them were bought back by the Sevres museum at up to three times Christie's estimates. On that occasion a catalogue footnote revealed that the plates had recently belonged to Nicholas of Romania, King Michael's uncle, who took refuge in Spain after the Communist takeover in 1947.

Christie's say that the 12 plates and two lidded sugar bowls from the famous service, which they have for sale today, come from a different vendor - but that could well mean a different member of the Romanian royal family.

Christie's also have six of the original watercolour designs for the service made by Jean-Charles Develly.

(Photograph omitted)