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The Collectics Antiques Information & Education pages are designed to further knowledge of antiques, collectibles, collecting styles, periods, artists, designers, and manufacturers of fine and decorative arts. To learn more, our Antique Collector Bookstore lists only the best collector books and price guides, complied by surveys of top antique dealers and auction houses. For a different shopping experience, you can also browse our featured selections in a fun new way with the Antique Price Guides Slideshow or see current bestsellers by using Collector Books Topic Search.

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The Sevres Porcelain Factory was originally founded in 1738 at Chateau de Vincennes, France by local craftsmen from a nearby porcelain factory at Chantilly. From the beginning, Sevres created finely detailed gilded and hand painted decorative arts for the wealthy and priviledged. The French royal family granted Sevres a 20 year exclusive contract to produce porcelain in France, along with the title of Royal Manufacterer of Porcelain granted under the regime of Louis XV who had an ownership stake in the factory. Louis XV took over the entire operation himself in about 1759, believing himself the best ambassador for its wares to both a French and increasingly internationale clientele. Louis' travels spread  the Sevres reputation for deep colors and the finest glazes across Europe, and he commissioned monumental works for his personal collection. The royal court began to come under criticism from other French artists and craftsmen who wished to enter porcelain manufacturing but were excluded by the royal edict granting monopoly. Under pressure, Louis XV loosened the prohibitions somewhat but retained details regarding the use of gilding, for example, which ensured that Sevres would continue to be a preferred choice of the wealthy and powerful in an age of ostentatious ornamentation in decorative objects. Where the raw material for porcelain kaolin had formerly been brought in from Austria, a natural deposit of kaolin was soon discovered in France near the town of Limoges. This gave the French the needed supply of high quality kaolin with which to compete with the best of Europe.

Everything changed with the coming of the French Revolution and the depression which followed. The company was in financial ruin, its aspirations to challenge the German company Meissen as the most desired porcelain for the royal and wealthy. It was declared the property of the French government about 1798, and the company tried to survive with a greatly reduced work force and shortages of cash and raw materials. The government appointed a new administrator Alexander Brongniart of the Sevres operations at the turn of the new century, a scientist and son of an architect but a man with little or no experience in porcelain manufacturing or design. He was however skilled in chemistry, botany, zoology,  and geology, a true Renaissance man. He applied these skills and experiences to the manufacture of porcelain in ways never before pursued. Creative design and production efficiencies both flourished, and the factory began to recover from the hard times. Sevres began to shed its dependence on the French royal family by expanding to produce not just the highly crafted pieces for the wealthy but also more simple yet high quality pieces for a broader section of society. The factory also invested in glaze and kaolin (the raw material of porcelain) experimentation as well as the expansion of the decorating department. Reflecting the renewed fire of their ambitions, Sevres created one of the world's first museum's devoted exclusively to porcelain and included in the exhibits antiques from around the world as well as their own production. Sevres continued to thrive through a succession of French rulers including Napolean. Napolean preferred grand pieces of the Empire style, with classical influeces but elaborate ornamentation signifying power. Sevres retained royal preference and influence throughout the 19th century even as various style preferences came and went. Their production changed in utility as well, adapting to the needs of society for new presentation dishes and containers for new cuisine and food & drink preferences. Well known artists such as Fragonard worked at Sevres, and their focus on premium production and consequently prices enabled them to attract only the best decorators. Sevres porcelain has through the years reinforced and advanced the French reputation for producing some of the world's highest quality luxury goods for the wealthy and priviledged.

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Sevres: Porcelain from the Sevres Museum, 1740 to the Present Day Vincennes and Sevres Porcelain: Catalogue of the Collections
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