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Paris China History

From about 1760 onward, but chiefly in the later years of the eighteenth century, a number of porcelain factories sprang up in Paris and in its immediate suburbs. They were engaged chiefly in the manufacture of hard paste porcelain, consequent upon the discovery of the necessary materials in the south of France, and were able to pursue their course comparatively unmolested, partly through diplomatic evasion, partly through the laxity of enforcing the regulative edicts that prevailed during the reign of Louis XVI. They unquestionably infringed the prerogatives claimed by Sevres, but this infringement was generally connived at by those in authority and was actively encouraged by many of exalted station, in one case even by the Queen, Marie Antoinette, herself.

Of these minor factories, many of which produced admirable china both in point of structure and tasteful decoration, those most worthy of attention were Vincennes (not to be confounded with the old Vincennes factory which was merged in Sevres), the "Manufacture du Comte d' Artois," the factory of Vaux, the Fabrique de la Courtille, the Fabrique de la rue de Reuilly, the Fabrique de Monsieur at Clignancourt, the Fabrique de la Reine, rue Thiroux, the Fabrique du Duc d'Angouleme, rue de Bondy, the Fabrique de la rue Popincourt, and the Fabrique du Duc d'Orleans. The products of these factories are always turning up and most of them are so excellent, that anyone might well rejoice at getting them. Nor is this excellence to be wondered at when we remember that not a few of those men who started these factories, or directed them, had gained their knowledge and ability, both technical and artistic, in no less a training school than the factory of Sevres.

When the deficits of Sevres were appallingly large in the reign of Louis XVI, and it was well-nigh impossible for the King to find the wherewithal to maintain the works at their full capacity, he was obliged to reduce the staff. Every reduction sent adrift men who were capable of making and decorating porcelain in the manner of Sevres and, when the enforced retrenchment deprived them of their wonted employment in the royal factory, it was only to be expected that they should seek an outlet for their experience elsewhere and carry on the kind of work for which they were best fitted.

Started as these factories were, late in the century when the passion for hard paste porcelain was strong and when France now had the materials within her own territory whereby she could equal the long-envied products of the German factories and secure the same commercial advantages, it was the most natural thing in the world that they should all pursue the making of hard paste porcelain.

As all these factories were in operation late in the century, the china they made exhibited the contours and decoration characteristic of that epoch when restraint and reticence began to take the place of the more florid luberance that had previously prevailed. In contour, purity of line, and in decoration, the disciplined elegance of Neo-Classic motifs contribute a charm that distinguishes much of the chinaware put forth by these establishments. Their wares may be less famous than the products of far better known factories, but they are none the less beautiful and deserving of sincere appreciation.

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