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Assiette a potage

  • Object:

    Plate

  • Place of origin:

    France (made)

  • Date:

    1778 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Sèvres porcelain factory (manufacturer)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Soft-paste porcelain, painted in enamels and gilt

  • Museum number:

    3643-1856

  • Gallery location:

    Ceramics, Room 143, The Timothy Sainsbury Gallery, case 8, shelf 3

The most important French porcelain factory was founded in 1740 in the royal château of Vincennes. In 1756 it was transferred to Sèvres, the other side of Paris, and shortly after was bought by Louis XV. The support and protection of the king and his mistress, Madame de Pompadour, enabled it to secure the best artists, sculptors, designers and chemists. Sèvres porcelain soon became the most sought after in Europe.
The royal manufactory at Sèvres specialised in luxury porcelains, many of which were destined for the French court. Each year it displayed its newest models in the king's apartments at Versailles. The factory was very responsive to changes in fashion and introduced many innovations in design and decoration. Its products were admired throughout Europe and its style was widely imitated.
This soup plate is from one of the grandest and most expensive services ever made at Sèvres. Comprising 800 pieces and serving 60 diners, this was commissioned by Catherine the Great, Empress of Russia, in 1776. It was the first to made at Sèvres in the neo-classical style, then becoming fashionable, and required a completely new set of designs and moulds (none of which were ever reused). The Empress selected the Ekaterina II monogram, the use of cameos and the turquoise ground. It proved impossible to achieve the colour on the 'hard-paste' body that the factory had recently begun producing and a special new 'soft-paste' formula was developed. Thirty-seven painters and five gilders worked on the commission, which took three years to complete. There is a double layer of tooled gold on the plates, each of which went through the kilns eight times for the successive biscuit, glaze, enamel and gold firings. The 'wastage' during the production was enormous: 3,000 pieces were made to achieve the total 800 perfect examples required. The Empress took a close interest in the service and the plates alone were redesigned eight times before she was satisfied. Nevertheless it proved so costly to make that she initially balked at the price and only paid the final installment of the renegotiated bill in 1792. By that date the factory was attempting to survive the French Revolution, which brought about a disasterous drop in sales and no comparable service was ever subsequently attempted.

Physical description

Plate, soft-paste porcelain, plain round, decorated with medallions painted in enamels and gilt on a bleu celeste ground. Rim hole.

Place of Origin

France (made)

Date

1778 (made)

Artist/maker

Sèvres porcelain factory (manufacturer)

Materials and Techniques

Soft-paste porcelain, painted in enamels and gilt

Marks and inscriptions

Interlaced 'L's enclosing letters 'aa'
Maker's mark, in blue enamel with date letter 'aa'

'cp'
Painter's mark, in blue enamel for Chappuis aine

'B'
Painter's mark, in blue enamel for Boulanger pere

'HP'
Gilder's mark, in red enamel for Henri-Martin Prevost

'33'
incised

Dimensions

Diameter: 24.3 cm

Object history note

Bought for £15.
From the service made for Catherine the Great, Empress of Russia, in 1778.

Descriptive line

Plate, porcelain, round, decorated with medallions painted in enamels and gilt on a bleu celeste ground, Sèvres porcelain factory, France, 1778

Labels and date

Gallery 128 Decant 2003

From the service made for Catherine the Great, Empress of Russia, in 1778. [07/06/2004]

Materials

Soft-paste porcelain

Subjects depicted

Medallions; Crowns (headdresses); Floral patterns; Classicism; Putti; Scrolls; Centaurs; Cameos

Categories

Ceramics; Porcelain; Tableware & cutlery

Collection

Ceramics Collection

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