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ROUEN CHINA - 1673-1698
HISTORY. The earliest manufacture of porcelain in France, of which we have any reasonably sure knowledge, was that established under letters-patent by Louis Poterat in 1673 at Rouen.
In 1664, it is true, Louis XIV had granted to Charles Reverend a patent for the making of porcelain in Paris, and there are several allusions in works of the time ap parently indicating that in or near Paris attempts to produce porcelain were made before 1670. There are several specimens of early work, too, which it seems impossible to identify as the products of either Rouen or St. Cloud. These seem to indicate the existence of a short-lived enterprise whose records have been lost. It is, therefore, the manufacture inaugurated by Poterat at Rouen that we must regard as the first authenticated production of porcelain in France.
The letters-patent issued to Poterat in 1673 granted him an "exclusive monopoly for the fabrication of plates and dishes, pots, and vases of porcelain like that of China for the period of thirty years. " This privilege was conferred in consideration of his foreign travels and diligent application whereby he had mastered the technical secrets enabling him to establish a new industry in France. An official report, made at the instance of M. de Pontchartrain in 1694, discloses the facts that porcelain was made at the factories of both Louis Poterat and his father; that the works were well kept; and that although they possessed the secret of making porcelain, very little of it was made, most of the output consisting of faience. Louis Poterat died in 1696 and the conduct of the works then fell to his brother. The latter, however, seems to have been incapable of continuing the business successfully and the making of Rouen porcelain was discontinued.
The Rouen china was soft paste porcelain and the body, of a rich, creamy quality, has a slightly greenish hue. The glaze is less "glassy" in appearance than the glaze of much other soft paste porcelain and exhibits a very pale sea-green tinge.
There are only about fifty pieces of Rouen china known to be in existence, and almost all of these are decorated altogether in blue, although a few specimens exhibit other colors in combination. One piece in the museum at Rouen shows a decoration in blue, green and red. The blue is darker, denser and often greyer than the blue usually seen on other early soft paste porcelains, and the color seems to have been applied not under the glaze but on the raw glaze before it was fired.
It is noteworthy that the decorations were invariably in the contemporary French manner of ornament that characterised the reign of Louis XIV. It is all the more remarkable that no motifs of direct Chinese provenance occur when we remember that the making of porcelain was an openly avowed imitation of Chinese methods, was stimulated by Chinese examples, and that in nearly every other case Chinese types of decoration were borrowed and applied without hesitation.