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Porcelain And Pottery (Part 2 Of 3)
In 1719, with the help of a runaway from Dresden, a factory was started under the managership of Claud du Pacquier. It made fine hard-paste porcelain resembling Dresden in paste more than in design or colouring. Du Pacquier's factory faced continual difficulties; ware was costly to produce and much of it too dear to find many purchasers. It is rare today. In 1744 the factory was bought by the Austrian State and successful efforts were made to popularize its products. This porcelain, known from its mark of a shield in blue, finally evolved an individual style of heavily gilded pieces painted carefully in the manner of miniatures. These were first made towards the end of the eighteenth century, but were copied again and again until the factory closed in 1864. Some of the modern and very garish imitations of this type of Vienna porcelain bears the printed `signature' of the artist; often that of the English painter, Angelica Kauffmann.
Soft-paste porcelain is said to have been made at Rouen as early as 1673, but although several specimens have been brought forward as proof of the statement they are not accepted generally as having been made there. The earliest accepted pieces are those made at Saint-Cloud at the end of the seventeenth century. They are mostly of a creamy colour, but occasionally of a bluish white, and all kinds of wares were made. Painting was in underglaze blue and in colours, and much was in the popular Oriental manner. Examples of the ware are not commonly found, and figures, of which few were made, are the rarest. The most common mark is s`TC in blue or incised. The factory closed in 1766.
A soft-paste factory was founded at Chantilly in 1725 and made wares covered in an attractive glaze containing tin which gave it a smooth, white, and distinctive appearance. Tablewares, vases and other useful pieces were made, and neatly decorated in brilliant colours that rely on the beautiful white surface for their full effect. Later wares were lead-glazed and of a creamy colour, and one of the last patterns introduced was widely copied; a small spray of cornflowers known as the `Chantilly sprig'. After being owned for a few years by an Englishman named Potter the factory closed in 1800. The mark is a curved huntinghorn in red or blue.
The factory best known by the name of Mennecy was started in 1734 in Paris, fourteen years later moved outside the capital to Mennecy, and in 1773 moved finally to Bourg-la-Reine. The early wares are usually of a milky-white colour, with a 'wet-looking' glaze and a slightly undulating surface; in very rare instances a tin-glaze, in imitation of that used at Chantilly, is found. All types of wares, including a number of figures and groups, were painted in colours and many show a particularly striking use of pink and bright blue. The mark comprises the letters `n v', incised or in blue.
The National Manufactory of porcelain in France was started in a disused chateau in the suburbs of Paris in 1738. In that year some workmen who had left the Chantilly factory and claimed to know the secrets of making porcelain, were engaged to conduct experiments to that end. They failed to make good their boasts and are said to have spent most of their time drinking, with the result that they were sent away in disgrace and another arcanist employed in their place. Finally, in 1745, success was achieved, and Royal permission given to form a company to make `porcelain in the style of the Saxon, that is to say, painted and gilded with human figures'.
Undoubtedly the factory aimed at challenging the hold that Germany had on the French market, and replacing the imported wares by home-produced ones. From the start the best chemists, goldsmiths and other experts were employed, and decrees were passed forbidding any other factory in France from making porcelain or the workmen at the new factory to leave and reveal the secrets. By 1750 more than a hundred workers were employed, and three years later a further order again prohibited manufacture by any rival concern; an order that does not seem to have been taken very seriously. In 1753, also, it was proposed to build new premises at Sevres, again close to Paris and on the way to Versailles, and when the erection was completed in 1756 the move was made. After a number of financial difficulties, growing pains common to the porcelain factories of all nations, the establishment was taken over by Louis XV in 1760.
The justly-famous Sevres soft-paste porcelain quickly rose to a high position as a leader of fashion, and when the Seven Years'War started in 1756, the French factory was able to leap ahead as its rival fell into the hands of Frederick the Great and the Prussian soldiers. A large part of the early output was devoted to the making of artificial flowers of all kinds that were coloured naturally. On one occasion Madame de Pompadour received the King in a conservatory filled with quantities of these porcelain blooms which were perfumed to make them more convincing.
Figures began to be made at an early date, and the majority were glazed and uncoloured. In 1751 came the introduction of figures made and sold in the biscuit; an entirely new idea that was very successful and that employed many first-class modellers.
The magnificent vases made at Sevres were finely painted in panels on grounds of colours that were envied and copied throughout Europe: dark blue, turquoise, yellow, green, and rose-pink (known as Rose du Barry or Rose Pompadour). Many of the vases were made especially for presentation by the King to foreign Royalties and acted as excellent ambassadors of trade; orders flowed to the factory in their wake.
In spite of the success and popularity of the Sevres soft-paste the directors of the manufactory were not satisfied and continued to attempt to make hard-paste: `in the style of the Saxon.' Eventually, they succeeded, and by 1772, the new material was being manufactured in quantity. The use of hard-paste enabled much larger pieces to be made, and lowered the proportion of losses in firing, but the ware lost much of its beauty as a result. In the nineteenth century numbers of large vases and covers were made, many painted with pseudoeighteenth-century scenes on a turquoise ground and heavily mounted in gilt metal. Services painted with portraits of Royal and noble personages were also popular.
About 1800, following the Revolution, changes in direction and policy caused the sale of great quantities of `seconds' and stored undecorated pieces, that were bought by English and French `outside decorators'. These genuinely old soft-paste specimens were carefully painted in authentic styles and colours; also, sparsely-decorated old Sevres has sometimes had its enamelling removed with acid and more valuable embellishment added and glazed. At Coalport and elsewhere in England, and at some Continental factories, clever forgeries were made. Altogether, the collector should bear in mind the words of W. B. Honey: `It is probable that more than half the porcelain purporting to be Sevres in private hands is partly or wholly false.' The mark, which is often imitated, comprises two script `L's facing each other and interlinked. There is often an additional letter between them to denote the year of manufacture.
Although the French factories mentioned above were situated in or near the city of Paris, there were a number of small ones in addition making hard-paste wares that are known generally as `Paris Porcelain'. These were all started after about 1770, and some twenty or so different makers came and went between that date and 1830. Straight-sided coffee-cups, with saucers, are frequently found and have neatly painted coloured decoration and gilding. Some of the pieces are marked with the name of the factory stencilled in red, but much is unmarked.
A further hard-paste factory was at Fontainebleau, just outside Paris, and this was bought in 1830 by two brothers, Jacob and Mardochee Petit. They made a great quantity of wares of all kinds, brightly painted and heavily gilt, heavily modelled but decorative in appearance. Clock cases and vases are found commonly, and many bear the initials of Jacob Petit, by whose name the porcelain is known, in underglaze blue.
Several factories were started in the east of France, close to the frontier with Germany. None lasted for any considerable time and, on the whole, their productions are not distinguished. At Strasburg both tablewares and figures were made, and although some of the latter are copied from Sevres models others are original.
Porcelain was made at Niderviller from 1765, and all types of wares were made including some good figures in white biscuit. An unusual style of decorating porcelain practised there achieved some popularity, and consisted of a trompe l'oeil. This took the form of an engraving of a landscape pinned to a piece of wood with well-defined grain, painted carefully on the china in natural colours. Good biscuit figures were made also at Luneville.