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MENNECY-VILLEROY CHINA - 1735-1773 0r 1773
HISTORY. The factory of Mennecy-Villeroy was started in 1735 by Francois Barbin under the patronage of the Duke, Louis-Francois de Neufville de Villeroy, one of the great nobles of the Court of Louis XV. Apparently the venture was undertaken, and porcelain was manufactured, without the authorisation of royal letterspatent. Royal sanction, it seems, was not granted until 1748, and then it was restricted with stipulations that Barbin must not employ any workmen who had ever worked at Vincennes and that he must not imitate the wares made there.
The earliest pieces made at Mennecy were imitations of Saint Cloud china. Somewhat later, the opaque tin glaze of Chantilly was used and Chantilly wares were copied. At length the factory found itself, so to speak, and developed a manner of its own. Although the creations of Vincennes and Sevres were closely imitated, nevertheless a certain individual character was imparted to the Mennecy china.
Jean-Baptiste Barbin, who had succeeded his father as director of Mennecy, was himself succeeded about 1766 by the MM. Jacques and Jullien, who not only managed the works but became its owners as well. One was a painter and the other a sculptor. In 1773 or 1774 the factory of Mennecy-Villeroy came to an end after venturing to make pieces in biscuit besides producing some of the most fascinating china of the eighteenth century, of much artistic excellence.
THE BODY. The Mennecy-Villeroy porcelain had a soft paste body of a yellowish or dark ivory tinge, and was made in emulation of the Saint Cloud body. The faint yellowish or amber tone gave it a peculiarly mellow quality and rendered it a warm and sympathetic ground for the coloured decoration applied to its surface.
THE GLAZE. The glaze of the earliest efforts is faulty and uneven, and although the technical short comings were soon remedied, there was rarely or never quite the same perfection of finish in this respect that characterised the work of several of the other contemporary factories. At one time ar. opaque glaze was used, much like the early Chantilly glaze which, however, it did not equal.
ARTICLES MADE AND CONTOUR. Amongst the articles made at the Mennecy-Villeroy factory the modelled pieces in biscuit deserve special mention because of their artistic excellence and because of the initiative implied in undertaking them. An advertisement of March, 1766, announcing the coming sale of the factory and its stock of wares-this was just before Jacques and Jullien became the proprietors-enumerates "cups, saucers, antique vases, groups, pedestals, mustard-pots, gravy-boats, dishes, covered dishes, cruet-stands, powder-boxes, sugarboxes, sugar bowls for the table, and fruit baskets of various forms."
Besides these, the factory customarily made a varied assortment of pieces including flower pots, pot-pourri jars, milk jugs, coffee and chocolate pots, teapots, water jugs, ewers and basons, wall brackets and sconces, small clock cases, mirror frames, candlesticks, statuettes, snuffboxes, pomatum pots, patch boxes, knife handles, and sundries for household embellishment or use upon writing tables or dressing stands. There seems to have been a marked preference for vertical rather than flat pieces, and consequently plates and platters were comparatively -are products.
During the sway of the Chinese taste the Mennecy factory made use of a number of Oriental shapes, but most of its products exhibit purely European contours. Those in the Rococo manner show much grace and charm, particularly the pieces of simpler character, although some of the more elaborate efforts were rather overdone in their tortured intricacy.
The knobs on the lids of tea, coffee and chocolate pots, sugar bowls, and covered dishes, and the handles of tureens and dishes, were well modelled and daintily picked out with colors.
TYPES OF DECORATION. The Mennecy types of decoration, at the outset, were patterned after the early-methods of Saint Cloud and Rouen, use being made of the characteristic lambrequins of the latter factory wrought blue. Then followed decorative painting in bright glowing reds, greens, yellows and blues in the subsequent manner of Saint Cloud and Chantilly, both in the Kaki-yemon vein and in the more realistic French and Saxon styles. The most characteristic Mennecy decorations were those patterned after the modes of Vincennes and Sevres, although the Mennecy decorators always managed to impart a certain individuality to the pieces they put forth. Chinese as well as Japanese motifs, course, were employed to some extent, but the greater part of the decorations were wholly European in character.
Occasionally Sevres ground color processes were followed, such as using a bleu du roi ground enriched with " partridge eye" diapering, gilding and polychrome flowers in reserve. A number of cups, saucers, snuff-boxes and other small articles were produced which displayed pastoral scenes and figures after the fashion of Watteau and Lancret, executed with exquisite finish.A purplish rose color was characteristic of Mennecy decoration , and occurs very frequently, while yellow, rose, lilac and blue are rather predominant in the flower painting. As gilding was a jealously maintained prerogative of the royal factories, and was forbidden Mennecy, so that there were times when it could not be practised extensively or openly, it was necessary to find some substitute to use as a finish for certain schemes where gold would ordinarily have been employed. This substitute is discovered in the yellow, blue and, more especially, the rose-coloured lines with which the mouldings, edges , and other suitable points were habitually embellished. These color lines add greatly to the charm of the decoration and we may now be glad that gilding was banned.
Polychrome painting of flowers and other motifs was also prescribed by royal letters-patent as the sole privilege of Vincennes and Sevres. Although there were long periods when this regulation was not enforced, and when the other porcelain factories employed color as freely as they pleased without molestation or interference, there were also occasions when the privilege was insistently maintained. At such times there was no choice but compliance and Mennecy, Chantilly and Saint Cloud had to be content for a season with monochrome decoration until the lines were relaxed again. About 1766 there was such a period of stringency. When the anti-polychrome regulation was enforced, the factories other than Vincennes and Sevres were at liberty to use any one color desired in decorating a piece of china, and flowers, birds, and other motifs were all presented in blue, yellow, rose or mauve, as the case might be, en camaieu as the method was called. Not a few of these decorations en camatieu are very beautiful and possess great distinction.
THE MARKS. The unmistakable Mennecy mark consisted of the letters D. V. (presumably signifying Duc de Villeroy). On the earlier work, this mark was painted in enamel color; later it became customary to scratch or engrave it on the paste before firing. On some of the Sevres imitations the two crossed "L's" of Sevres are painted beside the D. V. incised in the body.