Sèvres Porcelain Furniture
It is impossible to think about fine French ceramics without the Sèvres Porcelain Manufactory coming immediately to mind. Always in the forefront of classic French design, Sèvres artisans have maintained a standard of excellence and elegance since their kilns were first fired nearly 300 years ago. For the French, a work of Sèvres porcelain is a national treasure.
The Sèvres Porcelain Manufactory was established in 1740 at the Chateau de Vincennes, east of Paris, with Louis XV (1710-1774) and his favored mistress, Madame de Pompadour (1721-1764), as its chief patrons. Pompadour had the factory moved west to the town of Sèvres, closer to her own chateau, in 1756 and convinced Louis to buy it three years later. In its early decades, the Sèvres Porcelain Manufactory produced wares in soft-paste porcelain, but the discovery of the key mineral kaolin in Limoges, France, in the late 1760s allowed artisans to make more delicate, glass-like hard-paste porcelain wares. Most of the goods produced under Louis XV were made specifically for the court and aristocracy, and they included such pieces as decorative flowers, dinner services, and mantle garnitures. These works featured painted decoration in bright hues of green, blue and pink, on vases and dishes in the sinuous, curvaceous court-favored Rococo style. Later in the 18th century, archaeological discoveries of Greek and Roman ruins prompted the rise of the Neoclassical style and brought design “à la grecque” to Sèvres. Porcelain of this period was modeled on ancient urns and vessels, and employed ornamental details such as garlands, fretwork and angular handles.
During the reign of Napoleon Bonaparte, control of the manufactory was placed in the hands of the chemist and mineralogist Alexandre Brongniart (1770–1847). Under his administration, the Sèvres Porcelain Manufactory advanced technologically and stylistically. Freed from catering solely to royal tastes, Sèvres ceramics designers from then on embraced new looks and forms as they came into fashion, from the Egyptian-influenced Empire style of the early 19th century, through the bold Gothic Revival movement, to the lush, organic patterns of the Art Nouveau. In any style, the hallmark of Sèvres porcelain is an attention to detail: rich enamel decoration, elaborate borders, gilding and vivid figural scenes. A vintage Sèvres vase, covered bowl or dinner service is a keynote in any traditional design collection. But as you will see from the pieces offered here, the creative range of the artisans of this great French maker has been so broad as to suit any taste.