Saturday, January 2, 1971

A Brief History of Porcelain

.....
.......
At the end of the XIIIth century, the accounts of Marco Polo, the great Venetian traveler, astonished all of Europe. He described to his contemporaries who were not familiar with glazed pottery a terra cotta used in China at the court of the great Kublai Khan: its pleasing ring when struck, it white paste which was so thin and translucent that the reflection of the tea could be seen through it.
.......
Fascinated by its translucency, it was named porcelain after the eponymous cowrie shell (“porcelaine” in French). It was made in China using the pure white clay from Mount Kao-lin. Despite all the energy and capital invested, its manufacture remained a mystery for the French, who contented themselves with importing it, at great expense via the Silk Road, then, at the beginning of the XVIIth century, by the ships of the East India Company.
.......
Faience was used as a substitute until the XVIIIth century. In 1709, in Germany, using kaolin discovered in Aue, large quantities of porcelain were produced for the first time. Made in Meissen in Saxony, it was imported throughout Europe. At the same time in France, a translucent material was finally obtained—soft porcelain or French porcelain—manufactured without kaolin. Its paste was complicated and costly to produce because of the large number of rejects after firing.
........
Important personalities of the kingdom were interested in its production and became its protectors: in Saint-Cloud, the duke of Orléans, Regent of France, in Chantilly, the prince of Condé, but equally in Sceaux and Mennecy. The king himself protected the works in Vincennes which, after moving to Sèvres in 1756, became the Royal Manufacture of Sèvres. Starting in 1768, thanks to the discovery of kaolin, hard porcelain was produced there. The manufacture executed many service pieces used at the court for the king, as well as gifts given to French and foreign notables.