Eight remarkable types of French porcelain

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Verica Sitnik
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Porcelain is primarily a ceramic material, which is made of different materials such as kaolin (is the primary material),  bone ash, ball clay, quartz, alabaster, feldspar, steatite, petuntse, and glass.

The materials are heating in a kiln to temperatures between 1,200 and 1,400 °C. The toughness and translucence of porcelain, are relative, and all depend on their manufacturing process, and that’s why there are so many different types of porcelain.

Rouen soft-paste porcelain mustard cup, made in the 17th century. Photo Credit

Porcelain was first developed 2,000 years ago in China, then, via the East Asian countries, slowly spread to Europe and finally to the rest of the world. Here are eight types of French porcelain.

Chocolate Pot, Porcelain of Limoges. Photo Credit

1. Limoges porcelain

Limoges porcelain is a hard-paste porcelain, which dates from the late 18th century and produced by factories near the city of Limoges, in France. There is no specific reference to a particular manufacturer. The city had a strong tradition in the production of vitreous enamel in the 12th century, and also it was very famous in the manufacture of decorative objects.

A plate produced by Limoges porcelain from the 19th century. Photo Credit

In 1771, the manufacturing of hard-paste porcelain in Limoges was established by Turgot. The discovery of local supplies of kaolin near the city was one of the most important factors in the growth of production of the porcelain, which was very similar to Chinese porcelain. The factory for the production of Limoges porcelain was placed under the patronage of the Comte d’Artois and was later purchased by the King in 1784. In the 19th century, Limoges was the premier manufacturing city of porcelain in France.

Hard-paste porcelain broiler, Clignancourt porcelain, 1780. Photo Credit

2. Clignancourt porcelain

Clignancourt porcelain, which is also known as “Porcelaine de Monsieur,” was established by Deruelle in January 1775, in Paris, France. It is a unique type of French hard-paste porcelain. The name “Porcelaine de Monsieur” was given to the Clignancourt porcelain after the Kings brother, Monsieur Louis XVIII.

Manufacture de Monsieur 1775, Clignancourt hard paste porcelain cup. Photo Credit

3. Vincennes porcelain

The Vincennes manufactory was established in 1740 in Vincennes, east of Paris. It is a beautiful and brilliant white soft-paste porcelain. France had to wait for the first kaolin to be found in the country, so the early experiments produced so many imperfect pieces. However, beautiful tea ware and dinner services were produced in the Vincennes porcelain factory.

A plate dates from 1749-1753, Vincennes porcelain. Photo Credit

The silversmith Jean-Claude Duplessis designed vases for Vincennes in the French Rococo style, in 1745. New glaze colors were developed at Vincennes such as a rich sky blue (bleu céleste) and the “Turkish” blue that fixed that color (bleu turquoise).

A vase from 1753, Vincennes soft-porcelain. Photo Credit

In April 1748, there was a spectacular presentation of a vase to the Queen, which made this type of porcelain very famous. After 1752, Vincennes was handed a monopoly of polychrome decors.

4. Etiolles porcelain

Etiolles porcelain was manufactured in the city of Etiolles, near Corbeil, from 1766. It was a type of French hard-paste porcelain. The factory which produced Etiolles porcelain was established by Jean-Baptiste Pellevé and Dominique Monnier. Today, it’s very hard to find a piece of this type of porcelain because few specimens have survived the years.

A rare Etiolles hard paste tea jar, from 1770. Photo Credit

5. Saint-Cloud porcelain

Saint-Cloud porcelain it is a type of soft-paste porcelain which dates from late 17th to the mid 18th century. It was produced in the French town of Saint-Cloud. The family of Pierre Chicaneau was famous for making porcelain as “perfect as the Chinese” since 1693, so Philippe I, Duke of Orléans gave them letters-patent in 1702. Chicaneau’s factory was a pioneer in the production of porcelain in Europe.

“Famille Verte,” soft porcelain spitting bowl, created by Saint-Cloud 1730-1740. Photo Credit

Saint-Cloud developed a frit (a flux, sand and chalk mixture), which was close to Asian porcelain. The Saint-Cloud porcelain was influenced by Ming blue and white porcelain, and its decorative motifs were taken from and based on Chinese originals. Its color is a warm yellowish or ivory tone and rarely pure white. Its texture was firm unlike any other, and it was considered to be one of the most attractive types of porcelain. The production of Saint-Cloud porcelain continued until 1766.

“Famille Rose,” soft paste porcelain flower holder, made by Saint-Cloud porcelain, 1730-1740. Photo Credit

6. Revol Porcelain

Revol Porcelain was founded by brothers François and Joseph-Marie Revol in 1768. The brothers discovered a deposit of white kaolin in France’s Rhone Valley, and they established a factory in Ponsas. In the beginning, the company produced a hard-wearing white stoneware. Later, Revol developed a porcelain body which became the primary form of the Revol ceramic products, also known as “La porcelaine culinaire.” Revol Porcelain remains a family-run company after nine generations and produces 4 million units per year.

Coq soft porcelain small figure, Mennecy-Villeroy porcelain. Photo Credit

7. Mennecy-Villeroy porcelain

Mennecy-Villeroy porcelain was manufactured in a factory established by Louis-François-Anne de Neufville, Duc de Villeroy (1695-1766). It is a French soft-paste porcelain, and it was housed in outbuildings from 1748. François Barbin (1691-1765) was in charge of the production, because of his 40-year long experience as a maker of porcelain in the rue de Charonne.

Lidded pots like these were used for makeup, made around 1760, by Mennecy-Villeroy porcelain. Photo Credit

He was established as a maker of faience under Villeroy’s protection. Later, the management of the factory was assumed by Jean-Baptiste, who was Barbin’s son. Mennecy-Villeroy porcelain mainly produced tableware, but its specialty was the production of small figures, such as “commedia dell’arte” characters.

8. The Rouen manufactory porcelain

The Rouen manufactory (1673-96) was located in Rouen, Normandy. It was one of the earliest factories in France that produced soft-paste porcelain and faience. The first soft-paste porcelain of France was produced in 1673 by Rouen.

Soft-paste porcelain bottle, made by Rouen, at the end of 17th century. Photo Credit

Blue designs for decoration on the porcelain were used, with the same technique as was used on the faiences of the period, and the porcelain became known as “Porcelaine française.” The Rouen factory made an effort to imitate Chinese porcelain, and the paste used in its production was very light, lighter than any other porcelain that was later made in France. In 1696, the Rouen porcelain manufactory was closed.