Notebook, 1993-


POTTERY AND PORCELAIN - Glossary - A List of Museums and Galleries - Ceramics - [A materials resource site with links]

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Pictured here is: "Statuette Sceaux ou Paris" - Statuette en faïence de Sceaux représentant un marchand de fruits, décor polychrome au naturel. XVIIIème siècle. Hauteur: 15,8 cm.

Pottery &
Porcelain - French

The art of tin-enamelling earthenware was probably introduced into France during the sixteenth century by migrant potters from Spain and Italy. Early French wares, such as those made at Lyons, show the dominating influence of Italian majolica techniques, and both Florentine and Genoese artists are recorded as having worked there in the first half of the sixteenth century. The term faïence, derived from the Italian town of Faenza, was, however, not in general use until about 1610.

The development of an independent style began at Nevers, which was the last city to receive the wandering Italians. From 1632 onwards new establishments sprang up there, and from then until the end of the eighteenth century the industry continued to thrive, notably at Rouen, Moustiers, Marseilles, and Strasbourg.

Nevers had carried forward the finest Italian traditions, as a result of privileges granted to three brothers of the Conrade family, who came from Albrissola near Genoa. A departure is first seen in a well-defined type decorated in imitation of Chinese blue-and-white porcelain, imported into Europe in the seventeenth century. Another innovation for which the potters of Nevers became famous was a deep-blue glaze, onto which was painted in opaque white, yellow, and orange, the so-called 'Persian' motifs of flowers and birds. Their pseudo-Oriental character led Brongniart [Director of the Sèvres Museum] to classify them as Persian, and the ground colour is generally known as bleu persan. The shapes were either Oriental or baroque, and coinciding with the Chinese imitations, were beautiful pictorial subjects, painted from engravings after Raphael, Frans Foris, and the baroque masters Poussin, Van Dyck, and Simon Vouet.

In 1647 the factory at Rouen, owned by Edme Poterat, obtained a fifty-year monopoly for the whole of Normandy. A very distinctive kind of ornament originating there was the somewhat monotonous repetition of symmetrical patterns painted in blue on a white ground. Known as style rayonnant, it consists of elaborately scrolled and foliate decoration converging inwards in pendants [lambrequins] towards the centre of a dish or plate: alternatively, the pattern was 'reserved' in white on a blue ground. Variations, introducing ferronnerie, figures, and slight architectural motives, were taken from engravings by Jean Berain [style Berain ].

Faïence was at first regarded as only suitable for use by the bourgeoisie, and below stairs in the houses of noblemen. At the beginning of the eighteenth century, however, a national emergency caused Louis XIV and his courtiers to send their silver plate to be melted down at the Mint, and this provided the fağenciers with an unexpected opportunity to sell their wares in a very different market. Those nearest Paris naturally benefited most, and numerous Rouen services painted with the arms of famous families testify to the patronage of the nobility.

In the south, Moustiers and Marseilles at first adopted the prevailing styles. Pierre Clerissy, assisted by a painter François Viry and his sons Gaspard and Jean Baptiste, founded the industry at Moustiers in 1679. Through successive generations the business was handed down to his grandson Pierre II, who, until 1757, continued it with such success that he [p. 451] became a landed nobleman. His enterprise also attracted others to the district.

The fashionable blue-and-white palette used on early Moustiers shows great distinction. Some fine dishes painted by Viry depict hunting scenes taken from engravings by Antonio Tempesta, also biblical subjects after Leclerc's engraved illustrations in the Bible de Sacy, published in Paris, 1670. The early eighteenth century saw the adoption of the style Berain.

Foremost among the other factories was that of Jean Baptiste Laugier and his brother-in-law Joseph Olerys. It lasted from 1738 to 1790. The use of polychrome was introduced to Moustiers by Olerys, who had already worked at the Alcora factory in Spain [1727-37}. From the style Berain it passed to a phase characterized by elaborately framed pictures and festooned borders décor à guirlandes. Biblical and allegorical scenes with figures painted in small detail are believed to have been executed by Olerys. Emerging from this came a period of grotesque figures, dwarfs, clowns, birds, etc., scattered irregularly among fantastic vegetation. The painting is sometimes in orange, purple, or yellow monochrome.

From the latter part of the seventeenth century until the time of the French Revolution, faïenciers were thriving in or near Marseilles, its maritime trade providing great opportunities for expansion. An establishment in the suburb of Saint-Jean-du-Désert was directed by Joseph Clerissy, brother of Pierre, who came from Moustiers to take over in 1679 a factory started by potters from Nevers. Joseph died in 1685, but the family retained control of the business until it closed in 1748. Its connections with Nevers and Moustiers are obvious, and were reflected in its productions. In the town of Marseilles an important factory was run by Joseph Fauchier, whose management dates from 1710. Here too the influence of the earlier factories was evident, though the interpretation was more robust. In addition to other wares Fauchier made some excellent large figures, wall fountains, and crucifixes. He died in 1751, and his nephew Joseph II, who carried on the business, was elected an Associate of teh Academy of Painting and Sculpture at Marseilles. He is also credited with the invention of a very fine yellow ground colour, though this feature is common to all the Southern factories.

Other important establishments were those of Leroy, Bonnefoy, Savy, and Perrin [the last-named was known as Veuve Perrin, because it was carried on by the widow of the founder]. Savy, who was in partnership with her from about 1761 to 1764, invented a green enamel, used as a wash over drawings in black outline. Chinoiseries after Pillement were particularly well done at Veuve Perrin

Somewhat straggling flowers in green monochrome are common on Marseilles wares. Excellent marine subjects arranged as still life typify its marine environment.

Eighteenth-century Faïence colours were of two kinds. Those known as grand feu were painted on to the glaze and fired with it. Blue, copper green, manganese purples, orange, and antimony yellow withstood this high-temperature firing. Others proved intractable, and in order to include them, pieces were first glazed and fired. Enamel colours fluxed with glass and lead could then be applied and fixed at a low-temperature petit feu. These provided varying shades of red, crimson, pink, etc. The most famous, 'purple of Cassius', was obtained from gold.

Perhaps the best known of all French fağence was that made at Strasbourg, where, in 1732, C. F. Hannong conveyed to his sons Paul and Balthasar the factories at Strasbourg and Haguenau, which he himself had founded. Paul at first managed the main branch, but in 1738 both establishments passed into his hands.

The interchange of French and Germanic rococo styles was particularly noticeable at Strasbourg , owing to its close proximity to the German border. This influence was further heightened by the arrival of A. F. von Löwenfinck and his wife Seraphia from Höchst in 1749, followed by that of J. J. Ringler in 1753. Another German, W. Lanz, was chief modeller between 1745 and 1754.

Hannong showed great capabilities. Besides increasing the grand feu palette, he was the first French fağencier to adopt the full range of petit feu colours; among which the 'purple of Cassius' has already been mentioned. Gilding was first used in 1744 on pieces presented to Louis XV. Modes of decoration between 1749 and 1760, the year of Hannong's death, begin with borrowed Chinese and Japanese motives. Stylized leurs des Indes, introduced by Löwenfinck, were followed by naturalistic fleurs fine, the Deutsche Blumen of Meissen.

The forms are mostly rococo, employing elaborate scrolls, shells, etc. A great variety of articles was made, including clock cases, vases, figures, wall fountains, and tureens modelled in the form of vegetables.

Offshoots of Strasbourg were at Niderviller, Les Islettes, Lunéville, and Saint Clément.

Of the others, Sceaux, near Paris, was by far the most important. Its first owner, de Bey, an architect, made nothing significant, but in 1749 he enlisted the services of an itinerant craftsman Jacques Chapelle, who became sole proprietor ten years later. An application to make porcelain had been suppressed owing to Vincennes' monopoly, but Chapelle succeeded in making a quantity of admirable faïence, which was, by intention, closely akin to Sèvres porcelain. The shapes were at first mostly rococo. Tureens of animal and vegetable forms were also made. Later the neoclassical style of Louis XVI prevailed. Sceaux colors were strong and of excellent quality.

At the close of the eighteenth century the coming of the French Revolution, combined with competition from Wedgewood's creamware, spelt ruin for the fağence industry.

For lead-glazed wares see glossary under Palissy. [p. 452]

In France soft-paste porcelain, decorated with underglaze-blue arabesques in the style of Berain, had been made at R uen since 1673. During the early eighteenth century new factories were established at St Cloud, Chantilly, and Mennecy, which all centred in and around Paris. St Cloud porcelain, rarely pure white but of soft ivory tonality, continues at first with traditional underglaze-blue lacework borders. Thereafter a distinctive raised and tooled gold decoration, heightened with coloured enamel, was introduced, which the young Hunger copied at Meissen, Vienna, and Venice, as mentioned earlier. Contemporary silver determines the shape of useful articles, bowls, covered jars, and cache pots with reeded or gadrooned borders and mask handles. Applied plum-blossom relief in white after the Chinese, and painted kakiemon motives after the Japanese, are additional features. At Chantilly, which the Prince de Condé chose as a place for a factory in 1725, white tin glaze on soft-paste porcelain forms the background for simplified Japanese decorations in asymmetrical order, expressive of the playful mood of French rococo. Snuffboxes and fashionable pieces for the tea table are covered with these slight but clearly defined and self-confident designs in bright colours, which establish perfect balance of form and decoration. Mennecy, the last of these earlier factories, was founded in 1734, at the rue de Charonne in Paris, whence it moved to Mennecy in 1748, and later to Bourg-La-Reine. Imitating St Cloud and Chantilly at first, they soon attained great technical skill, but the primeval freshness of earlier patterns was not always maintained. The mature style of Mennecy was chiefly inspired by that of Vincennes. Few figures were produced in these three factories up to the middle of the century, since soft paste did not lend itself easily to moulding in the round, and there was danger of collapse in the kiln during the firing.

The factory of Vincennes, installed in 1738 in an abandoned royal palace, was transferred to Sèvres in 1756, where it flourishes to this day. A monopoly protecting the factory from competition, allowed Vincennes exclusive rights in the making of porcelain and in decorating it with figure subjects and gilding. This monopoly forbade the engagement of Vincennes workmen elsewhere and provided for the punishment of deserters. As further protection, a factory mark, consisting of the royal cipher, two crossed Ls, was introduced in 1753, and a date letter added at the same time. Thereafter the name Manufacture royale de porcelaine was assumed well before the time [1759] when the King finally bought the concern. In spite of the original intention to rival Meissen, a desire intensified after the exchange of presents between Augustus III and Louis XV on the occasion of the marriage of the formerÍs daughter, Maria Josepha, to the Dauphin in 1748, hard paste was not produced until more than twenty years later. But in 1753, when P. A. Hannong's factory at Strasbourg was affected by the monopoly granted to Vincennes, the opportunity of learning the secret presented itself. However, only some of it seems to have been extracted from Hannong, and no French sources supplying kaolin and petuntse had as yet been discovered. These difficulties prevailed until 1769, when the right clay was found near Limoges. Meanwhile Hannong had to destroy his porcelain kilns at Strasbourg and founded the factory at Frankenthal. The new hard-paste porcelain, made concurrently with soft paste, was marked with a crowned version of the crossed Ls and named Porcelaine Royaleto distinguish it from the Porcelaine de France.

The earliest Vincennes, which is unmarked, includes jardinières, jugs, ice pails, and trays of simple shape. Among the factory's first achievements are decorations in blue monochrome with flesh tones added, and the earliest of the many famous ground colours, a dark and sometimes mottled gros bleu. Occasionally gold decoration is used alone, but more frequently in combination with gros bleu grounds and reserved panels, which are painted with figures and birds in landscapes, or with silhouetted birds among blossoms. And while, as yet, there are but few figures, the modelling of naturalistic flowers in imitation of 'Saxe' proved to be the factory's greatest success, [p. 453] forming five-sixths of the total sales value. Such flowers were used for bocages, they formed parts of candelabra, clocks, and other decorative objects, which often included porcelain figures. Occasionally we hear also of a whole bouquet of these flowers; there is one at Dresden which the Dauphiness Maria Josepha sent to her royal father in 1748-9, to show that Vincennes could equal Meissen.

Biscuit porcelain, as a medium for figure modelling, was first mentioned in 1753, and soon began to displace glazed and coloured kinds. The influence of Boucher upon early biscuit groups of children and pastorals is felt strongly until such time as the sculptor E. M. Falconet entered the factory. During his nine years at S¶vres Falconet created models which were entirely original and belong to the best in the factory's history. After his departure for Russia in 1766 it became an established practice to employ sculptors as modellers, who made reduced versions of well-known monuments, and adapted classical models for reliefs. By 1780 pastorals had completely gone out of fashion, superseded by mythological and contemporary literary subjects, presented in a somewhat lifeless manner, following neoclassical taste.

The most characteristic of all S¶vres decorations are paintings enclosed in panels, reserved upon various coloured grounds, each shade in succession a triumph: turguoise [bleu celeste] in 1752; yellow [jaune jonquille] the following year; pea green in 1756; and the pink known as rose Pompadour again a year later. Finally, the strong, even bleu du roi, of such unequaled brilliance that an all-over pattern called æil-de perdrix, consisting of tiny gilt dots within rings and white circlets, was often applied to soften the effect. Festoons of flowers were also popular. Landscape and figure decorations, which are frequently signed at Sèvres, tend to become more sumptuous than they had been on early Vincennes porcelain. They adopted the manner and style of oil painting, surrounded by a framework of richly chased and burnished gold. A rare form of decoration, from about 1781-4 onwards, is the so -called jewelled Sèvres, with drops of translucent coloured enamel fused over gold or foil, simulating precious stones.

The breakdown of the Sèvres monopoly about 1770 gave other French factories their long-expected chance. Henceforth hard-paste porcelain was made in various small centres at Paris, some under the protection of the Royal family. In the east Strasbourg and Niderviller opened factories, and at Lunéville biscuit-porcelain figures were made of the famous terre de Lorraine. The discovery of kaolin in the vicinity of Limoges prompted the brothers Grellet to establish a hard-paste porcelain manufacture in 1771, and with it a flourishing industry in the Haute-Vienne district of France. [p. 454]

[L. G. G. Ramsey, F.S.A., ed. The Complete Color Encyclopedia of Antiques. Preface by Bevis Hillier, Editor of The Connoisseur. Compiled by The Connoisseur, London. New York: Hawthorn Books, Inc. 1962. Revised and Expanded Edition.]



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