Manufacturer Sevres porcelain

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Sevres porcelain SEVRES

Sevres porcelain is considered the pinnacle of European ceramic art. The brand of the famous French manufactory changed, depending on the period of manufacture and the type of products, which helps with attribution. The marking reflects the almost 300-year history of Sevr, but despite all the complexity, it is not able to fully protect collectors from falsification. As the manufacturer himself warns on the official website , almost from the moment of its creation, it has been suffering from scammers who use its brand to increase the value of their products. Especially it is necessary to be afraid of fakes of the XIX century, which are made by small private workshops on white blanks produced by the Sevres manufactory.


For the first time, soft, so-called frit porcelain was obtained in Florence at the court of Francesco I de' Medici, but France is considered the birthplace of this material. Here it received the widest distribution and was brought to perfection. The formula of French soft porcelain, or as it is also called "pastes", was discovered in 1673 by the potter Louis Potter, who worked on faience a manufactory in Rouen. The products made of the new material were light, snow-white and thin, and the cobalt underglaze painting made them even more similar to Chinese samples. However, due to the large percentage of defects, production was quickly stopped, returning to the proven faience.

A century later, in 1725, at the Chantilly manufactory, opened on the initiative of Duke Louis IV Henri de Bourbon-Conde, they tried to produce soft paste products again, this time successfully. The composition of the raw material did not include kaolin – the main component of solid (real) porcelain, which was brought from China and Japan or started to be produced in Meissen. The products became translucent and smooth thanks to the addition of frit – ground glass treated with metal salts, and calcined alum, proposed by the ceramist-inventor, gave them exceptional whiteness By Claude Humbert Guerin.

In 1740, the Duke of Conde died and the production, left without an influential patron, fell into decline. Claude Guerin, together with the leading Chantilly masters – brothers Robert and Gilles Dubois, moved to the town of Vincennes near Paris. He opened a new enterprise on the territory of the local castle, which previously served as the royal residence. Guerin's financial patron was the manager of the palace buildings, the brother of the Minister of Finance, Jean-Louis Henri Orry de Fulvi.

At that time, thanks to the Jesuit missionary Francois Xavier d'entrecol, who had lived in China for many years, the French already knew about the "secret ingredient" of hard porcelain - kaolin. But unlike Saxony, in the surrounding area No white clays of the required composition were found in Paris. Right up to the development near Limoges, at the end of the XVIII century, the Vincennes factory continued to work on a soft "paste".

The birth of a legend

Orry de Fulvi wanted to create a domestic production, in no way inferior to Meissen. However, the first attempts to improve the formula of Vincennes porcelain ended in failure. The products were massively deformed due to uneven firing and poor-quality raw materials, which led the manufactory to the brink of bankruptcy. Another former Chantilly employee, Louis Francois, saved the situation Gravan. It was he who managed to reveal the best qualities of the soft "paste", thanks to which sculptures and dishes made of it have almost equaled their Meissen counterparts.

The Dubois brothers, who had not achieved any success, soon left Vincennes Manufactory, but Gravan remained. In 1745, the company gained a powerful patron in the person of King Louis XV, having received the exclusive privilege of "making porcelain on the model of Saxony, painted and gilded, as well as images of human figures." Up to 1753 , the imitation of Meissen's style continues, which serves as a model for the nascent European manufactories. However, in parallel with this, French masters are beginning to look for own "face", relying on the properties of a soft "paste", which has great plasticity and expressive texture.


In 1748, Louis Gravan's wife Marie-Henriette Mill founded the manufacture of porcelain floristry at the manufactory. She also borrowed the idea from Meissen, but in a soft "paste" the flowers turned out to be really "alive", which the Saxons could not achieve in any way. The petals and leaves were bent naturally, exactly copying their natural counterparts, and the color surprised with a variety and subtle transitions of colors that did not fade with relatively low firing temperature.

Roses, peonies, lilies, tulips, anemones and hyacinths were bought by Marchand-Mercier – the forerunners of modern decorators who furnished the aristocratic living rooms of the "gallant century". Flowers were attached to stems of gilded bronze, and then decorated with sconces, candelabra, multi-track chandeliers or made table bouquets. Vases for such compositions were also made at the manufactory.

About twenty young women were engaged in modeling flowers under the guidance of Madame Gravan. It was believed that their hands were better adapted to a refined craft than men's. When women were banned from working in a factory in 1755, they continued to sculpt at home, although transporting fragile unfired flowers was fraught with great risk.

Biscuit figurines

In 1751, the artist and sculptor Jean-Jacques Bachelier, who was responsible for painting and glazing products, for the first time tried to leave the sculptural groups untouched after the first, so-called biscuit firing. The statuettes resembled marble with their delicate texture and warm creamy hue. They they required great skill and elaboration of the smallest details, since neither the glaze nor the painting hid the defects of the surfaces, and expressiveness was achieved only through the play of chiaroscuro.

Sponge porcelain is non–functional and was used exclusively for small plastics - dishes made of it passed water and easily absorbed dirt. The French aristocracy highly appreciated the novelty, despite the high cost and difficulty in care. Later, the biscuit decor was used by many manufacturers of thin-walled ceramics, in particular English factories Wedgwood and Minton.

Patronage of Madame Pompadour

In April 1748 , de Fulvi presented a gift to Maria Josepha Saxon – the second wife of the Dauphin Louis Ferdinand, a rococo vase with three elegant figures on a pedestal of gilded bronze. The main decoration of the composition was a huge porcelain bouquet consisting of 480 flowers. The total height of the product reached 90 cm, while the jewelry elaboration of the details shocked the eyewitnesses. As the court historian the Duke of Luin, "the dazzling whiteness and subtlety of the execution indicate that in in the manufacture of flowers, our manufactory surpasses the Meissen one."

The Dauphine was also delighted with the gift and immediately ordered a copy for her father, the Elector of Saxony Frederick Augustus III. The son of that Augustus the Strong, whose efforts opened the first production of hard porcelain in Europe. But the biggest fan of Vincennes was the favorite of the French king, the Marquise de Pompadour. Louis XV ordered 800,000 pounds worth of porcelain flowers, which were then used to decorate the greenhouse and the rooms in her chambers.

It is said that in winter Madame Pompadour called the king into the garden and she showed a blooming club, from which a delicious fragrance emanated. As it turned out, she replaced real roses and lilies with porcelain ones, spraying her own perfume on the petals for authenticity. Thus, the Pompadour was able to increase the favor of Louis XV to the flagship of French thin-walled ceramics.

When de Fulvi died unexpectedly in 1750, the king continued to support his factory with regular orders. However , Madame Pompadour was engaged in creating the image and promoting the products. On her money were conducted experiments with colored glazes, which in the future brought the manufactory worldwide fame. Chemist and scientist Jean Ello developed enamels of bright, juicy shades that did not fade during firing. These are "royal blue", "lapis lazuli", turquoise, sky blue, green and, of course, the famous "pink Pompadour", named after the royal favorite. A certain monk Hippolyte le Fer shared a special recipe for gilding followed by firing at low temperatures, which gave the products both sophistication and splendor characteristic of the style rococo.

From Vincennes to Sevres

Enlisting the support of Louis XV, the Marquise de Pompadour did everything possible for the further prosperity of Vincennes. She decorated her and the royal private apartments with vases and stucco decor, which prompted the highest aristocracy to follow her example. The slogan put forward by the enterprising marquise : "Whoever does not like my porcelain does not like France" served as a clear enough indication for the courtiers, so there was no shortage of orders from the manufactory .

In 1753, the king allowed to put his own on the products of Vincennes monogram – two crossed at the bottom and mirrored letters "L". This increased the prestige of the factory at the international level and attracted the attention of other European monarchs to it. In particular, the Russian Empress Catherine II ordered a "Service with cameos" for her favorite, Prince Grigory Potemkin. Today, the dining ensemble of a unique turquoise shade of more than 700 items is located in the Hermitage along with other masterpieces of Sevres porcelain. Although during the manufacture of the Catherine service , the company was still in Vincennes.

With the growth of production, the former premises became cramped. It was decided to move to Sevres in the southwest of the Paris suburb, closer to the Chateau de Bellevue, which belonged to Madame Pompadour. At the initiative of an influential patroness, a new four-storey building in the classical style was built for the factory. In 1759, the king bought the now Sevres manufactory and, with the help of tough measures, protected it from possible competition. Other porcelain enterprises were banned polychrome painting and gilding, as well as the manufacture of small plastics. In addition, by a special decree, Louis XV ordered to melt the silverware popular among the aristocrats in order to increase the demand for thin-walled ceramics.

Transition to hard porcelain

In 1768, near Limoges, in the town of Saint-Irie-la-Perche , deposits of kaolin were discovered. Three years later, Count de Ti de Milly, who had studied ceramics in Saxony for a long time, informed the Royal Academy of Sciences about the creation of solid porcelain in France on the model of Meissen. In 1770 , the king took control of the Limoges deposit in order to transfer it to raw materials Sevres manufactory. However, the company finally abandoned the soft "paste" only in 1804. Today, frit raw materials are used in isolated cases for exclusive orders.

Since 2009, the former royal manufactory has been under the patronage of Ministry of Culture and Communication of France. The official website of Sevra emphasizes that its task is to preserve the traditions of elite porcelain, engaged in the production of piece works of art. The range of the company includes models from the art fund and the work of modern designers. In the staff includes only 120 ceramists, who must master about 30 related professions before starting to make porcelain masterpieces. Sevr has never been involved in the production of mass-market products. Every year, several thousand products come out of its furnaces, some of which adorn the residences of the highest The country's leaders: the Elysee Palace, the Matignon Hotel, the Rambouillet Castle and others. The remaining items are sent to two galleries – in Sevres and the 1st arrondissement of Paris, as well as they take part in the FIAC fair, festivals and prestigious exhibitions.

For novice collectors

The Great French Revolution and the subsequent rise to power of Napoleon Bonaparte did not have the best effect on the luxury industry in general and Sevres in particular. At the end of the XVIII – beginning of the XIX century, the warehouses of the factory were bursting with unclaimed products: biscuit sculptures and "linen", that is , covered with white glaze, but not painted vases and sets. In order to stay "afloat", from 1813 to 1850, stocks were sold at low prices on auctions and lotteries. More than 33,000 porcelain pieces fell into the hands of private artists , which were painted and then offered under the guise of original products.

At present, authentic Sevres porcelain of the XVIII century is extremely rare. At best, these are high–quality copies made a century later by other, less famous brands. A striking example of such imitation is the Paris factory of Edme Samson, founded in 1845. The manufacturer claimed to be engaged in reproductions of Sevres and Meissen, but antiquarians call his products "fakes", although very skillful, and therefore not much inferior in price to the original. Since 1880 Samson & Cie added its own "Ss" brand to the main imitation marking. However, this inscription, applied overglaze, was easily erased, so only a specialist can say with certainty what is in front of him: an original or a fake .

The collector who bought Samson & Cie instead of the original Sevre can be considered lucky. He's still making a profitable investment. In any case, high–quality porcelain products of the XIX century become more expensive over time, even if it is an imitation of prestigious brands. You can buy and restored figurines or decorative items, but considering that their liquidity is lower than that of a complete preservation.

To protect themselves from the Chinese model, representatives Sevres factory recommends paying attention to the following details:

Snow-white shade of porcelain shard and a thin layer of transparent, shiny glaze. All elements of the stucco decoration should be clearly visible, without hiding behind the influx.

Until 1842, dishes and cups had a flat bottom and only then purchased ring-shaped sides, not covered with glaze.

The colors of the "roof" (fully decorated with enamel areas) and paintings are clean, juicy, contrasting. Both the front surfaces and hard-to-reach areas, including the reverse side of the products, have been worked out with the same care. An uneven colorful layer with streaks and "receding hairline", spots and "flies", featureless, faded or "dirty" shades indicate falsification.

The gilded areas are shiny and smooth. The unique 24-karat gold coating technology eliminates matte and embossed protrusions that are unavoidable when using low-quality amalgam.

The style of the decor fully corresponds to the shape.


In the "royal period", the stamps of Sevres porcelain were stamped with the years of production. And not only a number, but also a letter in the center of the monogram of Louis XV. Such labeling is typical only for soft "paste". Since 1762, the brand has acquired a new look, the monogram disappears, but the inscription "Sevres" appears, which in one form or another has been preserved to this day.

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