The soft paste of Sèvres, even during the period of the fifties and
sixties, when the most exquisite ware was being made, seems always to
have been regarded somewhat as a make-shift, to be employed until the
materials for making a true porcelain should be discovered in France.
For it was the ignorance of the true nature of kaolin, and where to look
for it, that so fortunately delayed its introduction at Sèvres. As early
as the Vincennes days, one of the Hannongs of Strassburg had offered to
sell his secret, and this offer was repeated at a later time by himself
and by his son. At Sèvres, before 1760, two German workmen were retained
to teach the Saxon process, but the materials had still to be obtained
from Germany.

Meantime Macquer, who had succeeded to the post of scientific adviser on
the death of Hellot, had been experimenting on his own account, and
above all encouraging others to search for the precious white earth
within French territory. At length, in 1760, some samples were sent from
Alençon, from which a true porcelain was made, but of poor quality and
of a grey colour. Outside the Sèvres works the younger Hannong had set
up a factory at Vincennes, and the Comte de Brancas Lauraguais, whom we
shall meet with again in England, had by 1764 begun his experiments and
his search after deposits of kaolin. There still exist a few
portrait-medallions moulded in hard porcelain, which, on the ground of
the letters B. L. engraved on the back, have been attributed to that
energetic nobleman.

The introduction, however, of the hard-paste porcelain at Sèvres dates
from the discovery, in 1768, at Saint-Yrieix, near Limoges, of those
famous deposits of kaolin which have ever since that time been the main
resource of the French porcelain industry.[194] Before the end of the
year 1769 Macquer was able to show to the king the first samples of this
new ware. The hard paste made for some years after this date was not of
the ‘severe’ type adopted later on. Not only did it contain as much as 9
per cent. of lime, but, the kaolin employed being less pure, contained
probably a good deal of mica–in fact, this first type of French hard
paste approached in composition that of the Chinese. It is even more
important to note that the glaze used at the same time was of an
entirely different nature from the pure felspathic covering afterwards
adopted. It was composed of Fontainebleau sand 40 per cent., potsherds
of hard porcelain 48 per cent., and chalk 12 per cent. As a result, it
was possible to decorate the surface with brilliant translucent enamels
of some thickness.

It was the introduction of the felspathic glaze in 1780 that gave the
final blow to the effective decoration of Sèvres porcelain. This glaze
is made by simply fusing a natural rock (pegmatite) consisting of a
mixture of potash felspar with a small quantity of quartz. The ease with
which this glaze can be prepared, its hardness and uniformity of
surface, led to its universal adoption not only at Sèvres but in the
porcelain works of the Limoges district that have for the last hundred
years supplied France with ordinary domestic wares–for such use its
hardness renders it eminently suitable. But, as we have said, this
combination of refractory paste and hard glaze is incompatible with any
brilliancy of decorative effect, the enamel colours are quite unable to
incorporate themselves with subjacent glaze, they lie dull and dead on
the surface, and the faults of the German porcelain are exaggerated.

So with the paste, a much harder and more refractory type was introduced
at the beginning of the next century, and (apart from the recent partial
introduction of a milder type for special purposes) this type has
remained in use to the present day. The lime in Brongniart’s new paste
was reduced to 5 per cent., while the amount of kaolin (65 per cent.) is
probably greater than in any other porcelain. There has been a reaction
lately at Sèvres against this refractory ware, but the old formulas are
still employed for the porcelain made for practical domestic use. When,
however, brilliancy of effect and artistic decoration are aimed at, a
completely new type both of paste and glaze has been in use since the
year 1880, and concomitantly with the imitation of the Chinese
monochrome wares, an attempt has been made to follow as closely as
possible the pastes and glazes of the Chinese. M. Vogt, the present
technical director at Sèvres, who has had so much to do with these
changes, gives the following formula for the composition of the new
porcelain: kaolin 38 per cent., felspar 38 per cent., quartz 24 per
cent. The lime, it will be seen, has been completely eliminated from the
paste; on the other hand, the glaze contains as much as 33 per cent. of
the _Craie de Bougival_.

It would be a dreary task to enter with any detail into the history of
the Sèvres works during the hundred years following the first
introduction of the hard paste. This period is associated in most minds
with the colossal vases that are to be found in so many of the palaces
and museums of Europe. To judge from these examples, it would seem that
the chief object both of the design and the decoration was to conceal as
far as possible the nature of the material used in their composition.
You have first to persuade yourself that you are looking at something
made of porcelain: once convinced of this, you marvel at the technical
difficulties that have been overcome in its manufacture, but what it
never even occurs to one to look for in these monstrous vases, is any
trace of that beauty of surface and brilliancy of decoration that we are
accustomed to associate with the substance of which they are composed.

The ‘Medici Vase’ now in the Louvre is probably the earliest of this
long series. This vase dates from the year 1783, and it is nearly seven
feet in height. But it was in the pseudo-classical style of the empire,
when encouraged by Napoleon’s love of the gigantic, and by his desire
‘_à faire parler la porcelaine_,’[195] that this new application of
porcelain found its full expression. It is then that we find vases,
candelabra, _surtouts de table_ and clocks, in styles distinguished as
Egyptian, Etruscan, Imperial, and Olympian. After this we can follow the
decline of taste in the succeeding _régimes_ till, with the total
extinction of all feeling for harmony of colour and unity of
composition, we are landed–in the reign of the ‘bourgeois king’–in the
style or absence of style which is the French equivalent of our ‘Early

There is one name above all others that is associated, at Sèvres, with
this long period, that of Alexandre Brongniart, who was director of the
works from the year 1804 until his death in 1847. The son of a
well-known architect, and himself a fellow-worker with Cuvier, he
attained some distinction both as a geologist and as a chemist. It was
indeed from the point of view of a man of science that he approached the
subject of ceramics,–as a geologist to examine the position and
stratigraphical relation of any material suitable for fictile purposes,
as a chemist to analyse these materials and to discover fresh metallic
combinations suitable for glazes and enamels.

It was at this time, and chiefly under the influence of Brongniart,[196]
that the palette of the enameller was enlarged by the introduction of so
many new colours, the employment of which gives a new _cachet_ to the
decoration of the nineteenth century. Perhaps the most important advance
was in the employment of oxide of zinc in the flux, by means of which
the colours of many metallic oxides are developed and sometimes altered.
The green derived from chromium is essentially a nineteenth century
colour, and as it resists the highest temperature this green can be
used, like the cobalt blue, as an under-glaze colour. From the chromate
of lead an orange-red is obtained–the _rouge cornalia_, a crude and
dangerous colour, and one that does not withstand high temperatures. An
orange-yellow from uranium, and a deep and uniform black from iridium,
were also introduced at this time or not long afterwards. The ‘English
pink,’ the lilac tint so extensively used in the transfer-printing of
earthenware, was successfully imitated by adding a small quantity of
oxide of chromium to a flux containing oxides of tin, lime, and alumina.
The celadon green of Sèvres is derived, not from the protoxide of iron,
but from the sesqui-oxide of chromium, with the addition of a minute
quantity of copper.

Brongniart’s great work, the _Traité des Arts Céramiques_, still remains
our main authority on the technical and scientific side of the art of
the potter, and it was he who, by establishing the museum and
organising the laboratories at Sèvres, made that town a centre for all
who are interested not only in the special branch of porcelain, but in
the whole field of ceramic art. The position established by him has been
well maintained by his successors, by Salvétat, by Ebelmen, by Deck, and
at the present time by MM. Lauth and Vogt on the technical side–above
all by Édouard Garnier, the present director of the Sèvres Museum.[197]
These men have succeeded, in spite of much opposition, in again bringing
the national manufactory of porcelain at least on to a level with the
artistic movement of the day.

In tracing the history of the Sèvres porcelain during the last hundred
years and more we can find at least one interesting aspect–we can
follow the steps by which the ware has responded to the social and
political changes that have followed one another in France during that
time. The affectation of simple and homely tastes, and the sentimental
tone fashionable in society during the years preceding the Revolution,
are reflected in both the forms and the painting of the ware then made.
The classical spirit that already in the time of Louis XVI. had found a
place alongside of these idyllic aspirations somewhat later, under the
lead of David, ruled every form of art. The various phases of the
Revolution are reflected in the decoration of the porcelain, which even
became a means of political propaganda. At the Hôtel Carnavalet, the
museum at Paris consecrated to the history of the city, the political
changes of this period may be traced in a series of plates and cups,
some of them of Sèvres porcelain, decorated with emblems and allegorical
figures relating first to the liberal monarchy of the early years of the
Revolution, and then in the sterner days of the Convention (when indeed
the existence of the works was only saved by the presence of mind of
the minister Paré) to the patriotic efforts of the leaders, and to the
successes of the republican armies. Portraits of the heroes of the
national assemblies and of the clubs, surmounted by caps of liberty and
framed in arrangements of pikes and drums, replaced the nymphs and
flowers of an earlier period, and even the guillotine, it is said, has
found a place in the decoration. A few years later the military element
was even more predominant. Eagles and thunderbolts, surrounded by
trophies of war, battle-scenes and the entry into Paris of the
victorious legions, commemorate the conquests of Napoleon.

After the Restoration the decoration of the gigantic vases, each new one
overtopping its predecessor, became more and more pictorial. To obtain a
better field for this pictorial display the greatest pains were taken to
produce large plaques of porcelain, some as much as four feet in length,
on which a school of accomplished artists painted laborious
reproductions of famous pictures, ancient and modern. Not a few of these
enamel-painters, at this time, came from Geneva, and some of the ablest
were ladies. Many remarkable specimens of this misdirected skill may be
seen in the Sèvres Museum, and also in a room of the picture-gallery at

Under the republican _régime_ that succeeded the revolution of 1848, it
was again proposed for a moment to sever the connection with the State,
but with the establishment of the second empire a fresh life was given
to the manufactory, on the appointment of Dieterle, an artist of repute,
to the directorship. Some new developments were now attempted,
especially in the introduction of coloured pastes. It was only after
many fruitless attempts that any results were obtained by this new
system. It is indeed a process quite foreign to the nature of porcelain,
and even when technically successful the result is far from
satisfactory. At a later time, however, the experience gained by the
experiments of Salvétat enabled a potter of great skill and some feeling
for art to employ the coloured pastes with greater simplicity and better
effect. M. Solon, since so well known in England, was the most
successful worker in this material. The decoration in his hands took the
form of a white slip, or _barbotine_, laid on a coloured ground. After
firing, the light and shade of the design is brought out by the varying
thickness of the now translucent coating, which allows more or less of
the coloured ground to be seen through it. In spite of its delicacy and
refinement the effect of this work is somewhat effete, both in style and
colour. In inferior hands, working with poorer material, the result is

At the present time, after experiments with many materials–the
crystalline glazes made with bismuth were at one time in favour–it is
to the production of artistic effects by means of single glazes that the
greatest attention is given at Sèvres, following more or less in the
lines of the _flambé_ wares of China. Not long since, a proposal was
again made in the Chamber of Deputies that the support of the Government
should be withdrawn from the factory. It is said that a timely report in
an English paper to the effect that, in such a case, the works would be
run by an Anglo-American syndicate, had not a little to do with the
defeat of this motion.

edicts and proclamations by which it was attempted to maintain the
monopoly of the royal works at Sèvres, there were in Paris, in the time
of Louis XVI., a number of private factories, some of them under the
patronage of members of the royal family.

It was in Paris that Brancas Lauraguais, as early as 1758, made his
experiments with kaolin, and here, in the Saint-Lazare district, one of
the Hannong family (Pierre Antoine, of the third generation, the same
who had lately failed at Vincennes) made porcelain after the German
style, perhaps before 1770. These works were patronised at a later day
by the king’s brother, the Comte d’Artois.

Again, in 1773, one Locré started in the Rue Fontaine au Roi the
‘_manufacture de porcelaine Allemande de la Courtille_.’ His marks of
arrows (PL. D. 59), torches, or later, ears of wheat, crossed in
imitation of the Saxon swords, are found on ware of some artistic merit.

But perhaps the most remarkable of the Parisian factories was that
started at Clignancourt, in 1775, by Pierre Deruelle, under the powerful
protection of Monsieur (the king’s brother, afterwards Louis XVIII.).
The royal edicts (as indeed was often the case elsewhere) against the
use of gold were ignored in this case, and the Sèvres ware–the simpler
forms then in fashion–was cleverly imitated. The earlier mark, a
windmill (PL. D. 61), pointed to the famous _moulin_ on the neighbouring
Montmartre. At a later time the letter M, under a crown, referred to the
royal patron.

The queen herself took under her patronage the factory started in 1778
by Lebœuf in the Rue Thiroux. This is the ‘_Porcelaine de la Reine_,’
marked with the letter A under a crown (PL. D. 62), often decorated with
leaves and little sprigs of the _barbeau_, the cornflower, then so much
in fashion. These flowers, indeed, may be found on many other wares,
English and French, about this time.

The Duc d’Angoulême was the patron of the works started in 1780, in the
Rue de Bondy. It is noteworthy that this factory survived, still under
the original founders, Guerhard and Dihl, to the days of Louis XVIII.
Dihl was, as it were, a forerunner of Brongniart, being the first potter
in France to employ the newly discovered colours derived from rarer
metallic bases. The Rue de Bondy factory had also the credit of
producing elaborate copies of pictures on plaques of porcelain before
such things were attempted at Sèvres.

The factory established in 1784 at the Pont aux Choux is chiefly
remarkable for the patronage of the Duc d’Orléans, Philippe Égalité.
Starting with the brother of Louis XIV., whose arms are found on
gigantic vases of ‘old Japan,’ this was the fifth member of the Orleans
family who had interested himself with porcelain, in one way or another.

I have only mentioned a few of the more important Parisian factories.
Franks, in his _Catalogue of Continental Porcelain_, gives a list of
seventeen works. Examples of most of these may be found either in the
Franks collection or in that of Mr. Fitzhenry.

After the Restoration the work done in Paris became more and more
confined to the decoration of porcelain made elsewhere. A special
industry–for such it may well be called–was the imitation of older
wares, both Oriental and European. For this somewhat ambiguous work the
Samson family has acquired a European reputation.

At the present day many more or less amateur potter-artists are working
in Paris. Specimens of their work may be studied in the yearly _salons_.
It is no uncommon thing to see–in the neighbourhood of the Panthéon,
for instance–a notice in a window pointing out to those interested,
that a kiln for porcelain or fayence will be fired at such and such a

During the last hundred years Limoges has become more and more the
centre of the porcelain industry of France. A very hard, refractory
porcelain is here made from the excellent kaolin of Saint-Yrieix, and
this ware not only occupies in France the position of our Staffordshire
earthenware and semi-porcelain, but competes with these wares in the
markets of the world. One of the largest works was started some years
ago with American capital, and the United States, until lately, drew
their principal supplies of porcelain from this district.[198] It is to
a chemist attached to one of these factories, to M. Dubreuil, that we
are indebted for our best account of the technical and chemical
processes employed at the present day in the manufacture and decoration
of porcelain (see the work quoted on p. 15). At Limoges there is a
ceramic museum, the most important in France after that at Sèvres, the
contents of which have been described by M. E. Garnier in a catalogue
which, as far as continental porcelain is concerned, has, so far, no