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Sevres porcelain has a long, rich history

Feb. 03, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

The Parisian porcelain Sevres has a long and rich history. Founded in 1738 as the Vincennes manufactory in France it became a pet project of Louis XV and his mistress Madame de Pompadour. In 1756 the factory was moved to Sevres close to Madame de Pompadours Bellevue Palace and along the route to Louis XV's residence the Palace of Versailles.

Louis XV became very involved in the production of the porcelain and demanded only the finest pieces be produced. This demand probably contributed to financial difficulties experienced by the company. These financial difficulties had Louis taking over the factory and making it a royal holding until the French Revolution when it was nationalized.

The King had one goal when he took an interest in the factory and that was for it to produce the best porcelain in Europe surpassing Meissen and Dresden. Some experts today maintain that the finest porcelain ever manufactured came from this factory from 1756 through 1769. Due to the lack of the fine kaolin clay necessary to compete the company came up with a superior soft-paste porcelain that offered a variety of colors and glazes the public enjoyed and coveted. Even more popular were the now very rare unglazed white Sevres biscuit porcelains the very wealthy of the day collected.

Sevres from the get-go had problems with copies being made because their target market was the well-to-do upper class. Local craftsmen would take seconds and try to copy them and sometimes come up with a pretty good example. They would even copy the double L maker's mark. Because there have been so many copies of the real thing made over the centuries it sometimes takes an expert to truly identify an original.

Today Queen Elizabeth II has probably the best collection of Sevres in the world due to one of her predecessors, King George IV, accumulating the best of the best. On this side of the Atlantic heiress Marjorie Meriwether Post had a deep love for this porcelain and it is on display at the Hillwood Museum in Washington, D.C.

Prices are all over the place for this collectible and it probably has a lot to do with whether it is a reproduction, when it wwas produced and the market in general. This lovely porcelain can go for just a few dollars or thousands depending on the piece, so one should purchase with care.

Jean McClelland writes about antiques for The Herald-Dispatch.