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Le Déjeuner (Breakfast)

Photo: Paul Macapia

Le Déjeuner (Breakfast)

1775

Louis-Simon Boizot

French, 1743 - 1809

This group is part of a three-piece ensemble of sculptural porcelain that includes La Nourrice (The Nursing Mother) (69.137) and La Toilette (2004.27). These three groups, portraying scenes from the life of an upper-class French family, reflect the Age of Enlightenment, a time when elite society embraced different, more nurturing attitudes toward maternal and family commitments. These sculptural groups were created in uncolored and unglazed porcelain that resembles marble, a fashion that suited the renewed interest in classical sculpture. In this group, a mother in her dressing gown joins her children for a breakfast of bread and the fashionable beverage of choice, hot chocolate. Her daughter stockpiles lumps of sugar in her lap, and the young son reaches in to steal some. In the eighteenth century, le déjeuner meant breakfast.
Hard paste biscuit porcelain
8 3/8 x 7 1/2 x 6 3/8 in. (21.2 x 19.1 x 16.2 cm)
Gift in memory of Blanche M. Harnan by the Seattle Ceramic Society and Friends, in cooperation with Mr. William H. Lautz, N.Y.C.
69.138
Provenance: William H. Lautz to 1969; Seattle Ceramic Society and Friends, 1969
Photo: Paul Macapia
location
Not currently on view

View the Sèvres Manufactory Sculpture Ensemble

Photo: Paul Macapia
La Toilette, ca. 1775-80, French, Sèvres, 2004.27
Photo: Paul Macapia
Le Déjeuner (Breakfast), 1775, French, Sèvres, 69.138
Photo: Paul Macapia
The Nursing Mother (La Nourrice), 1774, French, Sèvres, 69.137

The Ensemble

Stylistically and thematically, the three groups—La Toilette, La Nourrice, and Le Déjeuner—can be seen as an ensemble, with La Toilette as the centerpiece. However, Tamara Préaud, archivist at the Manufacture Nationale de Sévres, has pointed out that, "the factory sold 168 examples of Le Déjeuner and La Nourrice, often together, but only 23 of La Toilette."  From the manufactory sales records, we know that Louis XVI acquired two ensembles of all three pieces at the Versailles end-of-year sale in 1775. One ensemble was listed in the Versailles inventory of 1791 among the biscuits used in the dining room. This is curious because, as Madame Préaud has stated, the groups were never sold with a dinner service.  Judging from the habits of the king, it is reasonable to suppose that the other ensemble was a gift to the queen, Marie-Antoinette, but because the inventory of the queen's cabinets no longer exists, it is impossible to confirm this. The other documented sale of the three works as an ensemble include a set to M. Martine on August 14, 1776, and another to the marchand-mercier (dealer in luxury goods) Daguerre on March 17, 1789, for sale in London.
Composite of Sèvres ensemble, l-r: 69.137, 2004.27, 69.138

Mother and Child Groupings in SAM's Collection

Female Farming Animal Headdress (Ci Wara), n.d., Malian, Kala Region, Segou Master Style, Bamana, 81.17.23
Leda and the Swan and Her Children, ca. 1540, Vincent Sellaer, 2004.31
Gold weight: mother and children, n.d., Akan, 81.17.392
Bamako Family with Car #266, 1951-1952, Seydou Keita, 97.35
Seydou Keita did not record the names of his clients; hence this work is just titled Family with Car no.266. He owned two cars that were often requested to serve as backdrops for group portraits. In this assembly, three women are dressed in a line up of patterns, polka dots and wax prints. Their faces offer a study in the various ways to respond to a camera: knit eyebrows with reserve, stare it down with confidence or offer youthful eagerness to please. 
Madonna and Child, ca. 1514, Albrecht Dürer, 52.23
Photo: Paul Macapia
Mother and Child Figure for Sango, 19th century, Nigerian, Yoruba, 81.17.594

For the Love of Chocolate

Photo: Paul Macapia
Chocolate pot, ca. 1737, German, Meissen, 91.100.13
The French developed a form of chocolate pot that became a standard throughout Europe. Unfortunately, the tall, gracefully designed pear-shaped vessel, with its handle placed at ninety degrees to the spout, is missing from the museum's group. Chocolate pots are distinguished from coffeepots by an aperture in the lid, often under a swiveling finial, through which a stirring rod (called a moussoir in French) was inserted to keep the chocolate frothed and well blended. This image of a German chocolate pot from SAM's collection shows this distinguishing handle and aperture. 
"Kakaobaum" (Theobroma cacao), from Medizinal-Pflanzen, 1887, F.E. Köhler
Cacao trees, which bear pods filled with beans from which chocolate is processed, are native to Central America. Peoples of privilege and rank in ancient America drank chocolate as a bitter blend of roasted cacao beans mashed to paste and mixed with water, spices, vanilla (also indigenous to this area) and honey. The Maya were the first to cultivate cacao trees. The beans were considered so precious that they became a unit of currency.

Chocolate found its way to Europe as plunder brought back by Spanish conquistadors. Hernan Cortés sailed home to Spain in 1528 bearing great treasures, among them the cacao bean. Chocolate arrived in Spain almost one hundred years before two other exotic beverages: coffee from Arabia and tea from China. Charles V (1500-1558) liked the new savory drink—a mixture made from grating chocolate paste, hardened into a loaf or tablet shape, into wine or water sweetened with sugar. At first the drink was served cold, but it soon developed as a hot liquid in which the chocolate was kept in frothy suspension by a utensil fashioned after the long wooden sticks with concentric disks at the end that the Aztec had used. The Spanish called this implement a molinet.
Anne of Austria, 1665, Antoine Masson
Chocolate remained a lucrative Spanish trade monopoly for nearly a century, until the fashion for this drink crossed the Pyrenees with two Spanish princesses who became French queens. As the betrothed of Louis XIII, Anne came to France in 1615 with chocolate as part of her dowry. Her afternoon invitations "to chocolate" increased the prestige at court for its consumption. When Maria Theresa came from Spain to wed Anne's son, Louis XIV, she arrived with her own chocolate mistress, whose task was to brew and serve the queen's special blend. Royal mistresses continued the court tradition of drinking chocolate in the eighteenth century. Madame de Pompadour maintained her demanding positions as mistress to Louis XV (r.1723-74) and the great arbiter of taste and patron of the arts with a nourishing, intriguing breakfast of truffle and celery soup and cups of chocolate. The cost of drinking chocolate restricted its use to the privileged classes throughout the eighteenth century in France.

Media

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146
Julie Emerson, Former Ruth J. Nutt Curator of Decorative Arts, Seattle Art Museum, discusses three French porcelain figures

Resources

Exhibition HistorySeattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum, "Porcelain Stories: From China to Europe", February 17,2000 - May 7, 2000 (2/17/2000-5/7/2000)
Published ReferencesCollins, Jeffrey. “Exhibition Review.” Exhibition Review 34, No. 1 (Fall, 2000): 119.

Emerson, Julie. “Selections of French Porcelain from the Eighteenth Century European Porcelain
Collection of the Seattle Art Museum,” The French Porcelain Society, VI, June 1990, p. 13.

Emerson, Julie, Jennifer Chen, & Mimi Gardner Gates. Porcelain Stories, From China to
Europe. Exhibition catalogue, Seattle Art Museum. Seattle, Washington, 2000, pg. 264-265, pl. 17.2.

Seattle Art Museum. Annual Report of the Seattle Art Museum, 1969, p. 60.

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