has been made in Limoges, France since the mid-nineteenth century. Fine
porcelains were made by many factories including Haviland, Ahrenfeldt,
Guerin, Pouyat, Elite, and others.
Porcelain was first discovered by the Chinese
over a thousand years ago. Now made of pure white clay as the primary substance,
the Chinese first used sandstone and stoneware. One of the first Europeans
to see porcelain was Marco Polo during his travels to the far east, naming
it to reflect the characteristics of a very white and translucent shell.
Vasco De Gama brought the first porcelain back to Europe in the 1400s,
and trade soon sprang up under the vast network of the East India Company.
Louis XIV of France had an insatiable demand for porcelain, and much was
imported from China but at a very high price. The Chinese had kept the
manufacturing process for porcelain secret to maintain their trade position
and its lofty price, but now the French went about discovering the secrets
in all earnest. The earliest deposits of the mineral required to make porcelain
were discovered near Meissen,
Germany during the seventeenth century.
Kaolin was discovered
in France about 1768, close to Limoges, and gave rise to the
Limoges porcelain industry. Underground deposits around Limoges
also included metals which had been used to provide metallic
oxides for coloring enamel and Faience since the Middle Ages.
In 1771, Faience manufacturing was converted into porcelain
manufacturing, and the first hard paste porcelain was made in
the Limoges region. This first factory established about 1774
became a subsidiary of the royal factory in Sevres
in 1784. Following the French Revolution, this governmental
influence once again gave way to private interests, and by the
early 1800s Limoges was making the finest, purest white porcelain
in the world. By the 1830s, there were at least 35 porcelain
factories operating in the Limoges region. The latter half of
the century was the period of greatest growth and recognition
for Limoges porcelain, repeatedly recognized for its quality
and innovation in the universal expositions now being organized
in various parts of the world. The finest artists migrated to
Limoges to practice their art on the fine white porcelain now
being produced to international acclaim. Limoges transitioned
almost seamlessly from the Art Nouveau period into Art Deco
in the 1920s, and many fine works continue to be produced to
is made possible by working various types of clay including
Kaolin (provides the white hue and plasticity for shaping),
Quartz (a degreasing agent, reducing deformation during firing
and contributing to shape retention), and Feldspar (required
for glazing and giving porcelain its translucent quality). The
raw materials plus other ingredients are crushed and mixed,
and the resulting clay is then filtered and sifted. Once a piece
has been shaped, it is dried by firing first at temperatures
approaching 1000 degrees F, then enameled in a liquid bath,
then fired again at approximately 1400 degrees F to reach the
fusion point for the materials. The porcelain is now hard and
no longer porous, resulting in unsurpassed quality for tableware.
Porcelain decoration can be done either via a hand painting
in watercolors which are subsequently transferred to the porcelain
using a decal process, or hand painted with a paint brush.
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