French Sevres porcelain

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Sevres porcelain vases

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 privileged.

Everything changed with the coming of the French Revolution and the depression that followed. The company was in financial ruin, though it still had 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. 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 privileged.

Martin Worster
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