We have some Fresh ‘Delft’ and ‘delft’ pottery. What’s the difference? -Capital D is for the Dutch Delft, while the English version is designated a lower-case ‘d’. France calls it ‘Faience’, Germany ‘Fayence’, and Italy ‘Maiolica’.
Of course, it’s all the same technology: Tin oxide (a white powder) is added to the glaze to make it opaque and white, similar to the more technical porcelain. The reason can be seen when there’s a chip that reveals the clay body underneath: inevitably, it’s a coarse reddish-brown colour, nowhere near as attractive as the tinglaze white for a background.
There’s a splendid pair of Sèvres dishes fresh to Moorabool.
This shape is a compotier rond, and was a component of the large services, used alongside other shaped serving dishes in the centre of the table. A setting for a dozen might have two compotier rond, while the larger services, such as the massive Service Camaïeu Carmen de Fontainebleau (used by the Royal Family) had several dozen of this elegant dishes available.
The moulded pattern allows the beauty of the moulded porcelain to show in a way the more painted patterns cannot.
The elegant lotus flower design is borrowed from Chinese Export origins, where lotus-moulded dishes were a common sight in the early 18th century.
One of the dishes simply has the crossed ‘L’s’ mark, enclosing the date letter ‘L’ for 1764. The other example is the same, but also has a painter’s mark: ‘L’. This allows us to put a name on the painter of the flowers: Louis-Françoise Lécot . He appears in the factory wages lists in 1763, after possible earlier unpaid work as a pupil from about 1761. He worked as a flower painter in 1764 – but is then absent from any reference the following year, giving him the working period 1763-4…. a perfect match for this dish. He does re-appear, after spending 6 years somewhere else, when he is documented as a hard-paste artist in 1771 (as opposed to the soft-paste that was the only body available at Sèvres in the 1760’s). His work is then remarkable and distinct, specialising in dramatic imitation lacquer pieces, with gilt or platinum/silver chinoiseries painted in the highest Rococo manner, or the exotic ‘Etruscan’ grotesques inspired by discoveries in Italy during the 1770’s. These styles were the latest fashion for the French aristocrats, and bring to mind the lavish productions of the high-end Paris firms competing with Sèvres for the top-end customers. As Sèvres was the King’s factory, he enforced a monopoly on the industry, where colours & gilt decoration was exclusive to his own factory; the loop-hole found by eager factory owners was to attract an aristocratic patron to protect them – Clignancourt was under the protection of the Comet de Provenance (the future Louis XVIII) and Rue Thiroux was under the protection of the Queen, Marie Antoinette. Both produced very high quality hard-paste products in the 1770’s, and would have eagerly employed a Sèvres-trained artist such as Lécot. Locré & Russinger, otherwise known as La Courtille, was another such factory, minus the aristocratic protection; they ran afoul of the King’s Sèvres monopoly, with 2,000 pieces of illegal coloured & gilt porcelain being seized in 1780 – indicating they were producing a large amount of high quality hard-paste wares. Despite this set-back, they continued to make superbly decorated pieces as if nothing had happened….
Could Lécot have spent his time in some such Paris porcelain manufacture, learning the technique for decorating the hard-paste porcelain body? While he was away, Sèvres purchased the recipe for pâte tendre (hard paste) from Pierre-Antoine Hannong, the youngest son of Paul-Antoine Hannong, whose father had established the faience works in Strasbourg in the early 18th century . As often happens with generations, Paul-Antoine made a success of the firm when he introduced the first hard-paste porcelain production in France, in the mid-1750’s. He died in 1769, and his son, Pierre-Antoine became head. Two years later, he sold the secret of Hard-Paste to the Sèvres factory. They took a while, but once the right ingredients were sourced, Hard-Paste was made (alongside Soft-Paste) from the mid 1770’s onward.
When he returned in 1771, Lécot was able to paint on the new Hard-Paste body. He worked on some truly impressive hard-paste orders, and all major collections seem to feature his dramatic 1780’s Chinoiseries. This early example of his Soft-Paste work from his brief appearance at Sèvres in 1763-4 is a lovely rarity.
ref. Rosalind Savill, The Wallace Collection Catalogue of Sèvres Porcelain, London, 1988, Vol. III, pp. 1043-4 for more on Leçot.
Jean Bouchet, active at Sèvres 1757-93
This lovely cup and saucer are a ‘recently married’ pair. While the saucer has been in the Rosenberg Reference Collection in Geelong for a while as a fine example of Sèvres, the cup is a recent acquisition; remarkably, it is the same artist at work at Sèvres in the same year, 1781. While there is a difference in the details, the overall harmony makes them a delightful rarity. And of course, they have a story to tell…..
The artist is Jean Bouchet. He used a pictorial mark, a ‘tree’. While in the factory records – and the subsequent publications that used this as their source for what the marks looked like – he carefully drew a realistic tree with roots, trunk and layered foliage, while in practice he simplified it into something that looks like a furry lollypop…. This would have taken much less time & concentration!
The cup and the saucer are both 1781, dated with the same ‘DD’ in a distinct cursive script, the hand-writing of Jean Bouchet; there is also his distinct mark, a tree symbol. He is recorded as active at Sèvres 1763-93, a painter of human figures, landscapes, and flowers. He is very well represented in major collections, with his small landscapes being very appealing to original customers and present-day connoisseurs alike.
The cup has another painter’s mark also – ‘IN’, the mark of Jean Chauvaux jeune, a gilder active 1765-1802. As there is not a great deal of gilding on the cup, we would suggest he was responsible for the unusual ‘bead necklace’ painting of the borders, where they are given highlights & shadows to make them appear rounded.
The incised workman’s marks 36 & 48a are both recorded by Saville in the Wallace Collection’s catalogue, vol III pp1130&1133. ’36’ is recorded 1770-90’s, while ’48a’ is recorded 1777-92. There are no names associated with these individuals.
In the British Royal Collection, both ’36’ and ’48a’ are present in several assemblages, including a set of very similar cups & saucers from the same period.
A complete déjeuner by Jean Bouchet, in the V&A Museum, London
It’s rare to see a complete group of porcelain from this era still together. This set in the Victoria & Albert Museum, South Kensington, is a fascinating rarity to study. It was bequeathed to the museum in 2015, and leading expert Rosalind Savill has identified it as one of four déjeuners bought by Christian IV, Duke of Zweibrücken, on the 14th June 1775. This was just 3 days after the event of the decade in France, the coronation of Louis XVI which the Duke naturally attended. Their cost was 840 livres, the equivalent of tens-of-thousands in today’s currency…. an expensive souvenir!
The marks on Sèvres should follow the rules and be very logical, but in practice they can be quite random. The system was there to provide the company with a way of tracking the various production steps and those responsible for the work: in a perfect scenario, the répareur, or workman who puts it all together, incised his particular mark, and both the artist and the gilder would include their mark. Then the factory mark, the crossed ‘L’s’ for Louis were painted, and inside them the code for the year it was decorated.
As you can see in the dejéuner set examples above, this isn’t always the case: of the nine components of the existing set, just a single example has a painter’s mark, here the ‘tree’ of Jean Bouchet, and none have a year mark! It is only the monogram found on the tray, along with the factory records recording Bouchard’s work on the commission, and the solid provenance that allow this remarkable set to be dated. This helps explain the number of non-conforming Sèvres items we come across, which have no date code or artist’s mark. They were quite probably part of a set where only a few items were marked.
Reference: Savill, Rosalind: A Sèvres Porcelain Tea Service in the Victoria and Albert Museum with Surprising Credentials, French Porcelain Society Journal, Vol. II, 2005, pp. 39-46.
Of course, fraud is always a concern, and later-decorated pieces can often be non-conforming – but usually, a date code is part of the deception, with the first years ‘A B C’ for 1754, 55 & 56 being the favourite – the trouble is, the style of decoration & object type was often not yet invented at that date, a dead giveaway!
Every so often, we discover a piece of supreme beauty and rarity. This piece certainly qualifies, belonging to the very earliest years of the French Royal factory of Sevres.
What makes this doubly special is that it has come back to us again after many years. It came out of an Australian collection late last century, and was purchased from us by a local collector of refined taste; now it is being offered as he disposes of his collection due to ill-health. Over the years he has sold most of his other special pieces, but this was his favorite which he kept until the end…..
When it was sold the first time, we were not aware of a fascinating provenance. As often happens, while researching another object I stumbled across an illustration of a very similar jug – no, the exact same one – in the 1977 catalogue for the Mentmore dispersal sale. (Note: our jug is illustrated as ‘lot 2001’, but catalogued as ‘lot 2002’ – someone made a mistake!)
This memorable ‘Sale of the Century’, is documented in a 1977 news report seen here on YouTube. ‘Mentmore’ is one of England’s most amazing grand houses, and was built in the mid 19th century by Baron Rothschild in the Renaissance manner with no expense spared. This jug was therefore once part of the Rothschild collection.
Watching this grainy 1977 sale newsreport, I once again stumbled across the Vincennes jug; sitting in the great hall cabinets amongst a mouth-watering array of Sevres & Vincennes, you can make out the jug with its distinct gold silhouette birds.
A high-res black & white photo of the central Mentmore room also shows the jug, sitting at the far left of the left shelf second from the top.
With the dispersal of the collection in an epic 10-day sale in 1977, the jug somehow made its way to Australia. It appeared on the Australian market about 20 years later, when we purchased it for stock and it sold promptly to a delighted local collector.
The Royal French porcelain manufactory at Sèvres was well patronized by the French court, and the pieces they created were meant to be the most flamboyant and impressive luxuries imaginable. This pink ground cup & saucer certainly qualifies.
Important Sèvres cup and saucer, goblet et soucoup enfoncé, premiere grandeur , superbly painted by Antoine-Joseph Chappuis (aîné), with four panels of birds in landscapes, framed within rich tooled gold borders against a ground of blue and gold oeil-de-perdrix on a pink ground.
Crossed ‘L’s’ mark,
also date letter ‘M’ for 1765,
‘cp’ for artist Antoine-Joseph Chappuis (aîné),
incised cup repairer’s mark ‘00’ & ‘ae’
Madame de Pompadour was probably responsible for the inception of this unusual form of saucer, with its deep well ensuring the cup cannot be easily upset. The form appears in 1753, and as she was failing in health with tuberculosis, a socketed saucer negated the risk of spilling her drink due to a shaking hand or coughing fit. Factory records show that all examples of this type made were purchased by her until her death in 1764. The next recorded sale was in October 1765 to Princess Louise-Marie of France, youngest daughter of Louis XV. Its present whereabouts are unrecorded, and this example has a high possibility of being the goblet et soucoup enfoncé, premiere grandeur in question.
They were one-off products, and examples vary wildly in decoration. An example in the Getty Museum is thought to have belonged to Madame de Pompadour. It has a saucer with an unknown repairer’s mark (00), the same as on this cup. The gilding appears on numerous examples from this period, often with small inconsistencies such as can be seen in the above detail, where the gold doesn’t quite cover the ground.
The artist Chappuis ‘l’aîne’ was a long-term employee at Sèvres, being apprenticed as a répareur (maker) in 1756, became a painter in 1761, became the deputy ‘head of kilns’ in 1782 , andin charge of the kilns for the final year of his life in 1787.
His wonderfully vivid birds are distinct amongst the Sèvres artists repertoire, and a piece such as this importantgoblet et soucoup enfoncé, premiere grandeur show Sèvres at its best.
Provenance: The Antique Porcelain Company, NY
Similar gilding canseen on a can & saucer in the British Museum, #110 in Dawson’s book ‘French Porcelain in the British Museum’, also #112.
An écoulle, cover & stand with the same decoration was sold as part of the Giuseppe Rossi collection, Sothebys London 1999 lot 518
A colourful Sévres coffee can & saucer has a fascinating tale to tell, and is an as-yet unpublished clue that helps to identify a under-appreciated Sévres artist.
The cup & saucer – a ‘gobelet litron’, third size – is a stunning yellow colour, with a finely painted blue continuous landscape in blue that seems to float on the thick yellow ground. There is a border of dainty colourful scrolling foliage, and in the centre of the saucer, a pinwheel device almost like a
target. It’s fully marked to both pieces, and being unusual – and knowing the way Sévres was so often copied and outside-decorated – a full examination was required to ensure it was authentic. This brought to light some problems, and shows once again the ever-changing field of ceramics research: never believe absolutely what you read in print!
A quick look in the authoritative book on the subject, ‘SÉVRES PORCELAIN’ by Eriksen 1987 (p153 #46) apparently attributes the mark ‘ f B ‘ to a certain Francois-Marie Barrat, active 1769-91, a date that conforms nicely with the date 1788. However, the next entry is more accurate for the mark: #47, a ‘f B’ combination. Eriksen attributes this to Francois-Marie Barrat as an alternate mark, but states ‘….the compilers have never seen mark 47 which may be an incorrect rendering of Barrat’s usual mark.’
I can now demonstrate that this is wrong; there is another artist with a surname starting with B, Bouillat, who came to Sevres in 1758, and remained active there until 1810, a remarkable example of the dedication workmen felt to the factory. His mark was a capital Y, so he is not the artist in question; rather, his marriage in 1768 to a female artist at the factory, Genevieve-Louis Thevenet – (herself the daughter of a Factory artist Louis-Jean Thevenet!) resulted in a son and a daughter, who both became painters at Sévres. The son, or fil in French, began work at the factory in 1786, and left to join the army in 1793. During that time this mark appears on a series of pieces, including this cup & saucer. The lower-case f is obviously a stand-in for fil , and the B for Bouillat. The mark ‘fB’ should now be identified as Francois Bouillat, painter of flowers and landscapes.
On this basis, his work can be found on a service in the Queens Collection, and also a cup & saucer in the Hermitage, Russia. This example is particularly interesting as it has the same fluted colourful pinwheel device to the centre as our cup & saucer. It also bears small panels of the same vivid yellow, overpainted with brown scrolling foliage & urns, and is dated 1789.
There is a second painters mark, set in next to the footrim, consisting of ‘…’ . This mark is that of Jean-Baptiste Tandart, a prolific painter from 1754-1803. He is recorded as a ‘painter of flowers’ , which along with the secondary position of the mark indicates he was responsible for the garlands of flowers in the border.
The landscape decoration is known as ‘paysage circulaire’ (circular landscape) and in this form is extremely rare on Sévres, with the scene in blue painted directly on a brilliant yellow ground. This was technically a feat in itself, and perhaps was not used much due to the issues we see on this cup & saucer: the blue tends to bead into clumps, and the thick yellow enamels shift in the heat of the enamel firings. While the yellow pigment had been a very early Sévres development, the tone seen here appears in the early 1780’s and is not repeated after the Revolution. There are a handful of specimens scattered around the globe in various collections, making this a most rare & desirable item.
Moorabool is pleased to offer this rarity as a part of our 2015 Exhibition & Catalogue, opening in Geelong & online on March 28th.