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Vieux Paris Porcelain
Among the potters of a century and more ago who often neglected to mark their wares, there were some thirty small porcelain factories and decorating shops in Paris that flourished from the closing years of the Napoleonic era to the Franco-Prussian War. These potters ornamented their wares in the French manner with a liberal use of gilt and colored enamel. There was no attempt to cater to American tastes as there was in the case of that produced at Limoges hy Charles Haviland. Consequently, this Vieux Paris porcelain is not as well known in America as Limoges.
The Vieux Paris factories specialized in dinner and dessert services, and in large classic mantel urns and vases. The favorite types of ornamentation are clusters of fruits and flowers painted in full color architectural vignettes and small landscapes in either colors or in black and white, and genre groups in pastoral settings. These central decorations, or "reserves," are usually surrounded by wide bands of pink, known as rose Pompadour,cobalt blue, called bleu du roi, cornflower blue, apple green, buff, or ruby red, enhanced with gilt edging on the rim and inner side. The large two-handled mantel urns and vases are often entirely gilt or with a gilt ground framing painted panels of architectural subjects, landscapes, or floral medallions.
The quality of Vieux Paris is consistently fine. Many of the men who made it had worked earlier as decorators or potters at the Sevres factory, beginning as apprentices and continuing until they went into business for themselves, either as porcelain makers or as decorators in the shops to which the former shipped their plain white wares for the painted decorations to be added.
The colored ornamentation and the banding and gilding was hand-painted; the decoration in black was sometimes transfer-printed. This latter method was brought to Paris in the late eighteenth century by an Englishman, appropriately named Charles Potter. However, the French craftsmen were more inclined to remain faithful to hand-painted methods. Vieux Paris, whether hand-painted or transfer-printed, is easily distinguished from English porcelain of the same period. The body is hard paste of a clear white translucence, and its evenness of glaze and the meticulousness of the hand-painting and gilding are readily apparent. The English porcelain of the period is of bone china, slightly creamy in tone, and there is much less use of gilt in its more restrained decoration. Generally, the shapes of the English and French porcelains are similar.
Although very little Vieux Paris porcelain is marked, occasionally pieces bear the maker's impress. "Mft. de Lefebure, Rue Amelot" and "Nast" are two of the marks commonly found. Vieux Paris porcelains can be considered worthwhile collectors' items, not only as antiques, but also for their inherent decorative qualities and fine craftsmanship.