Or are you looking for Search the Archives?

Please complete the form to email this item.

Salt cellar

Salt cellar

  • Place of origin:

    Paris (made)

  • Date:

    1696-1724 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Saint-Cloud porcelain factory (manufacturer)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Soft-paste porcelain, painted in underglaze blue

  • Credit Line:

    Given by J. H. Fitzhenry

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Europe 1600-1815, Room 3, case CA7

Saint-Cloud was one of the earliest porcelain factories in Europe. Established initially as a faïence (tin-glazed earthenware) factory in about 1666, by the early 1690s porcelain was being made at Saint-Cloud thanks to the experiments of Pierre Chicaneau. He is thought to have died in about 1678, but passed on the results of his experiments to his wife and children. The business enjoyed the patronage of the King Louis XIV's brother, Philippe, duc d'Orléans (1640-1701) and was flourishing by the turn of the century. In the early years of porcelain production pieces sometimes bear the painted mark 'St C' and/or a sun mark, presumably indicating that it was made in the reign of 'The Sun King', Louis XIV who died in 1715. The type of elaborate radiating design (known as style rayonnant) is common at Saint-Cloud and was based on slightly early patterns found on Rouen faïence.

18th-century Europe saw major changes in the way food was served at grand dinners, leading to practices that are still with us today. Many new specialised tablewares were introduced, such as tureens and sauceboats, in response to changing fashions in food. This salt, however, pre-dates these changes and is based on contemporary metalware salts used in wealthy households in the late 17th century. Salt was an important source of revenue for the French crown as a deeply unpopular tax 'la gabelle' was levied on it. Nobles and clergy were exempt from paying it, and the free use of this important condiment, was a sign of status in France at this time. The tax was abolished at the time of the Revolution in 1790.

Physical description

Salt cellar of soft-paste porcelain, painted in underglaze blue. Circular with fluted rim and base; round the latter is a band of lambrequin ornament in blue. The well is bordered with similar ornament, surrounding a rosette.

Place of Origin

Paris (made)


1696-1724 (made)


Saint-Cloud porcelain factory (manufacturer)

Materials and Techniques

Soft-paste porcelain, painted in underglaze blue

Marks and inscriptions

A sun, in underglaze blue


Height: 40 mm, Diameter: 86 mm

Object history note

This type of radiating decoration is known as 'style rayonnant'

Descriptive line

Salt cellar, soft-paste porcelain painted in underglaze blue, Saint-Cloud porcelain factory, France, 1696-1724

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Christine Lahaussois, Porcelaines de Saint-Cloud, La Collection du Musée des Arts Decoratifs, Paris (1997), see cat. 17-21 for this form of salt cellar. 17 and 18 are the standard St. Cloud model, c. 1696-1710. The others of very similar form, may be St. Cloud or were possibly made by one of the many Paris workshops, known to have been producing wares in the style of St. Cloud, c. 1700-1730.
B. Rondot (ed), Discovering the Secrets of the Soft-Paste Porcelain at Saint-Cloud Manufactory (1999), cat. 61-63.
Aileen Dawson, French Porcelain, A Catalogue of The British Museum Collection, British Museum Press, 1994, cat. 3 and 4.


Soft paste porcelain; Cobalt oxide


Painted; Underglazed

Subjects depicted



Ceramics; Porcelain


Ceramics Collection

Large image request

Please confirm you are using these images within the following terms and conditions, by acknowledging each of the following key points:

Please let us know how you intend to use the images you will be downloading.