During the 18th century it became fashionable for wealthy Europeans to order dinner or tea and coffee services in China. They did this by placing the order with the East India Company representing their country. Normally they would include a sketch or a bookplate depicting their coat of arms, and they would select a border design (if the arms were to be in the center) or a central design (if the arms were to be on the border) from pattern books on hand at the local East India Company office.
Services might comprise less than 100 pieces, or there might be more than 300. It would usually take about two years from the time the order was placed to the time it was received by the purchaser.
The plate is an important one, and it is highly unusual in its design. Its importance derives from the fact that it was made for the family that has ruled the Principality of Monaco since 1331. It is probable that the service, dating circa 1735, was ordered for Prince Honore III, who reigned from about 1733 until 1793. It is conceivable that the butterflies and the bee were intended to wish longevity and industry to the young prince.
The service is unusual, if not unique, in that no other is known to have the central bee, and only one other is known with a similar butterfly design. The border's pink trellis or diaper ground is associated with the reign of the Emperor Yung Cheng (1723-1735) and the early Ch'ien Lung period (circa 1735-1740). The quality of the enamel colors and the gilding is superb. Examples from this service are avidly sought by collectors of China Trade porcelain.