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SÈVRES, &c.]

to an extensive system of “faking” and even forging specimens which are purchased at high prices by amateurs.

Beautiful as the old Sèvres porcelain was, those who were responsible for its manufacture could not fail to recognize that the porcelain made at Meissen and other German factories was both harder and whiter in substance, more truly resembling the oriental porcelain in every respect. It was also known that these German porcelains were not so difficult, and therefore so costly to manufacture as the French, and all these causes combined to make the directorate of Sèvres unremitting in their efforts to discover in France natural materials analogous to those used by the German and Chinese potters. Père d’Entrecolles, the famous Jesuit missionary, had forwarded to France long before an account of the methods used by the Chinese, as well as samples of the materials they employed; and after many years’ research Millot and Macquer discovered the precious materials at St Yrieix near Limoges (see Auscher, History of French Porcelain, pp. 77-81). The first experimental pieces of this French porcelain, similar in material to the German and Chinese, appear to have been made about 1769; but it was some years after this before the manufacture of the new product was firmly established, and then to the end of the 18th century more and more of the hard porcelain and less of the glassy porcelain was made at Sèvres. Speaking broadly, we might say that after 1780 comparatively little of the original French porcelain was made in France; and from that time to this practically all French porcelain has been of the same type as the German porcelain, viz. made with china clay and felspathic rock. This technical change in the nature of the materials had a profound influence on the artistic qualities of French porcelain, and the change was doubtless accentuated by the neo-classical rage which followed on the discovery of Herculaneum and Pompeii. The influence of antique vase shapes and of modern renderings of Greek motives in design spread over Europe like a plague, and whether in France, Germany or England the last quarter of the 18th and the first quarter of the 19th century mark a definite period in pottery design and decoration. The introduction of hard-paste porcelain rendered the manufacture of large vases and other pieces possible; and after 1780 we find the manufactory at Sèvres engaged in the production of enormous vases 5 or 6 ft. in height, a manufacture which has been continued there to this day. About the same time, too, we find the first production of large plaques or slabs of porcelain on which copies of well-known pictures were painted in enamel colours. The earliest of these slabs were in soft-paste porcelain, but in this material it was only possible to make them of quite modest dimensions; with the introduction of hard-paste porcelain very large slabs were manufactured, and a series of these are to be seen in the museum at Sèvres.

The most artistic of all the productions of Sèvres are undoubtedly the “biscuit” figures and groups. These were modelled with great skill by many of the best French sculptors of the day, such as Pajou, Pigalle, Clodion, La Rue, Caffieri, Falconet, Boizot, Julien, Le Riche, &c. The best of these Sèvres “biscuits” have a real artistic value which places them in a class quite apart from the German porcelain figures made at Meissen, Frankenthal and Höchst.

Paris.—Although during the reign of Louis XV. many privileges and prerogatives had been given to the Sèvres manufactory, such as the exclusive right to gild or paint in colours on porcelain, the breakdown of the monarchical régime, which was rapidly accelerated after the accession of Louis XVI., led to the establishment in Paris and its environs of a number, of factories for the production of hard-paste porcelains more or less in open rivalry with the royal manufactory of Sèvres. In order that the royal edicts might be more easily evaded, most of these factories were placed under the patronage of one of the French princes of the blood or even of Queen Marie Antoinette. There is little need to dwell on the doings of these Parisian factories, but the productions of the best of them, such as those of Clignancourt (patronized by Monsieur, the king’s eldest brother); Rue Thiroux (patronized by Queen Marie Antoinette); Rue de Bondy (patronized by the duc d’Angoulême), compare not unfavourably with those of Sèvres itself.

It is impossible to do more than mention the other important French factories at Mennecy, Sceaux, Bourg-la-Reine, Strassburg, Niederviller, Marseilles, Limoges and Caen. In the disastrous years of the French revolution (between 1789 and 1800), such of these factories as had survived came to an untimely end, even the royal factory at Sèvres passing through a kind of lingering death between 1792 and 1801, and it was not until Napoleon decided to revive the glories of Sèvres that modern French porcelain really came into being.

Just as the manufacture of German porcelain spread into Holland, Denmark, Sweden, Russia, &c., we find the manufacture of a glassy porcelain analogous to the early French arising in Belgium, Italy, Spain and England. The materials and methods were so like those used in France that it would be ridiculous to claim for them an independent origin, even were we unable to prove by documentary evidence that workmen trained in the French factories had migrated into those countries.

EB1911 Ceramics - Capo-di-Monte Potters’ marks.jpg
Capo-di-Monte Potters’
marks; 1736, 1759, 1780.

Italy.—In Italy we have the factories at Le Nove near Bassano (1762–1825); Doccia near Florence (founded in 1735 by the marchese Carlo Ginori, and still carried on by the same family); and Capo-di-Monte near Naples (1736–1820); with minor factories like those at Vinovo, Treviso, and the Volpato factory at Rome. The most important of these were the factories at Doccia and Capo-di-Monte. The porcelain made at Doccia was famous for its soft translucent texture, so that it lent itself beautifully to the production of white glazed porcelain figures resembling in quality the white pieces of Fu-kien.

The factory at Capo-di-Monte was under the direct patronage of Charles III., king of Naples. The earliest and best of its productions are in pure white, probably made in imitation of Chinese white pieces, though modelled in the form of natural shells supported by corals and seaweed. Figure-modelling was also largely practised, and besides groups of statuettes and figures in conjunction with vases, we have the typical Capo-di-Monte examples in which vases, cups, saucers, plates, &c., are covered with groups of figures modelled in high relief on a minute scale. This trivial style of work is greatly admired because of the minuteness of its execution. At a later period the works was removed to Portici and ultimately to Naples, but after about 1770 the classic style was adopted for the shapes and decorations. The factory came to an end as late as 1820.

EB1911 Ceramics - Buen Retiro Potters’ marks.jpg
Buen Retiro Potters’ marks.

Spain.—Charles III. of Naples ascended the throne of Spain in 1759 and took with him to Madrid many of the workmen from the Capo-di-Monte factory, as well as the best moulds and models. He established a new china factory in the gardens of Buen Retiro, a palace outside Madrid. As long as Charles III. lived immense sums were lavished on this factory, and the ware was not allowed to be sold, but was either used for the decoration of the royal palaces or for presentation to other European sovereigns. Enormous vases were made, following the example of Sèvres, and these were often filled with bouquets of flowers modelled in porcelain. The most famous productions of this factory, however, were the plaques and slabs of porcelain used for lining the walls of certain rooms in the royal palaces. Two of these rooms still remain, and are frightful examples of the Spanish rococo style. The factory was entirely destroyed in 1812 during the French war, and since that date no porcelain of any importance has been made in Spain.

English Porcelains of the 18th century.—There can be no doubt that whatever experimental work may have been conducted by our early English potters, such as the famous John Dwight of Fulham, nothing like an established manufacture of porcelain existed in this country prior to about 1740–1745. There are records of many tentative experiments before this date, but no real history. Between 1745 and 1755 important porcelain works were established at Chelsea, Bow, Worcester and Derby, and when we examine the productions of these factories it is impossible to avoid the conclusion that the processes had been imported from France. The early English porcelains, like all the French porcelains of that date, were composed of artificial or glassy mixtures.

We may take the early productions of Bow and Chelsea as typical of the earliest English porcelain of which there is any definite record. The material was a mixture of pipe-clay, sand from Alum Bay in the Isle of Wight, and glass, while the glaze was a fusible English flint-glass rich in lead. It is obvious, therefore, that we are dealing with substances very similar to those used in the glassy French porcelain (see above), and such mixtures were very difficult of fabrication, being subject to great loss in the process of firing. In the other European countries