Limoges Porcelain - history of
For many years
porcelain had been imported from China and both the source of kaolin and
the method of production had been kept a guarded secret by the Chinese.
However, the discovery of kaolin in Germany and refining of the
manufacturing method initiated a European manufacturing industry
in the 18th century.
In 1765, a chemists
wife, in St. Yrieixin near the town of Limoges, discovered a white
substance, which she hoped could be used as soap. The white
substance was analysed and identified as the purest Kaolin, an essential
ingredient of porcelain. This discovery has led to Limoges' prominence
in the production of porcelain.
Although all the ingredients
were available the formula for making hard paste pottery was still a
secret held by the Meissen family. In time as Meissen workers migrated
around Europe the formula became accessible.
The first porcelain factory in Limoges
was established 6 years later in 1771 and was quickly followed by
several others. Limoges
porcelain at first became a branch of the royal manufacture at Sevres producing
porcelain blanks for final decoration at Sevres but after the revolution
the industry grew quickly in private companies.
of modern day skills - Elizabeth by Robert Haviland & C. Parlon
Limoges had the
natural resources and labour to enable expansion of its porcelain industry.
It had the
kaolin deposits at St. Yrieix, the forests of the Limousin supplied the
massive quantities of wood needed to fire the kilns which was floated
down the Vienne River to Limoges. The river also supplied the power to pulverize and work
the clay. There were many agricultural workers willing to leave the infertile
surrounding land and work in the factories as well as a skilled
workforce familiar with the making of faience
Production costs and
labor were lower in the provinces than in Paris, and several porcelain
factories relocated to Limoges. The 19th century saw a growth of production in Limoges from 5
factories and 7kilns in 1808 to 35 factories and 120 kilns employing up
to 8,000 workers by 1900. Limoges became the French capital of porcelain
production with 80% of it being exported, mainly to the US.
Royalty, heads of state
and grand families chose to have their porcelain engraved with their
initials or coat of arms (this luxury is still available today -
). Painters, sculptors and engravers decorated the Limoges porcelain
with original patterns, giving it a truly artistic
value. Leading artists such as Nall are still commissioned today to
create unique designs.
Robert Haviland & C. Parlon