Whilst travelling in China Marco Polo discovered a dish so fine that
when he returned from China, he named it "porcelain". The term
"porcelain" comes from the Portuguese word porcella, the name
for a translucent shell. Around 1520, the first Chinese porcelain was imported into
Europe. It had an immediate impact and a widespread appeal amongst
wealthy Europeans, so much so that France
and Italy tried in vain to ban it and then imitate the delicate porcelain.
Things don't change much!
Bengalis by Haviland Parlon
Until the end of
the 17th century the only means to obtain kaolin (in Chinese this
translates to white clay) was to import it from China. Kaolin had
not been discovered in Europe and the Chinese were fiercely protective
of the source and processing method.
the early 18th
century, Kaolin was found for the first time at Sax. In 1708 the secret
of hard paste porcelain was identified by Johann Bottger a chemist
working of Meissen in Germany. Meissen became the first factory
producing hard paste porcelain in Europe replacing the more unreliable
soft paste method
Dynasty a classic design from Haviland Parlon
Kaolin was finally
discovered in the late 18th century in Limoges, France. This initiated the history of Limoges
porcelain manufacturing. Despite being a small town, Limoges was one of the oldest in the French
kingdom but well placed for natural resources and man power. In the beginning one manufacturing facility was set up,
followed by several more, predominantly to meet the demands of European
The leading artists of those days; painters in
particular, became interested in this fabulous substance. As a result
essential objects for daily use as well as decorative articles became
available. Since then masterpieces were created and passed along
generations worldwide. Some such articles can be viewed at the " Musee de la porcelaine de Limoges " the most important in the world
for its presentation of porcelain through the years.
The skills of yesteryear are
still alive and well in specialist porcelain companies such as
Parlon, Haviland Limoges,
Seignolles and Bernardaud.
Agueyssac by Jammet Seignolles