Limoges Porcelain

An history of Limoges porcelain, the manufacturing process of porcelain, and some ideas on how Limoges porcelain can add a new dimension to your lifestyle



Porcelain Process






Limoges Porcelain - history, process, and lifestyle

History of Limoges-

In 1765, a chemists wife discovered a white substance, in St. Yrieixin near the town of Limoges, which she hoped could be used as soap. On analysis the white substance was identified as  the purest Kaolin, the essential ingredient of porcelain. This discovery has led to Limoges' prominence in the production of porcelain. The first porcelain factory in Limoges was established 6 years later in 1771. Within a few years, the Limoges porcelain became a branch of the royal manufacture at Sevres producing porcelain blanks for final decoration at Sevres.

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New York Met Museum of Art      Assiette de service de I'mperatrice Catherine 11

Limoges was well situated for expansion of its porcelain industry. Firstly, it had the kaolin deposits at St. Yrieix. The forests of the Limousin supplied the massive quantities of wood needed to fire the kilns. The Vienne River floated the logs to Limoges and supplied the power to pulverize and work the clay. Abundant workers were willing to leave the infertile surrounding land and work in the factories.

Production costs and labor were lower in the provinces than in Paris, and several porcelain factories relocated from Paris to the provinces. 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 - see ). Painters, sculptors and engravers decorated the Limoges porcelain with various shapes and original patterns, giving it a truly artistic value. 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 capitol of porcelain production with 80% of it being exported.

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Paris Museum of Decorative Art    Service Pivoine par  Duplessis a Vincennes  1750

History of Porcelain-

It was in China that Marco Polo was first discovered a dish so fine that when he returned from China, he named it "porcelain". The term "porcelain" comes from the Middle Ages and refers to mother of pearl shell. Around 1520, the first Chinese porcelain was imported into Europe. It had widespread appeal among Europeans, so much so that France and Italy tried in vain to ban it and then imitate the delicate porcelain.

 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.  Apparently Kaolin was non existent in Europe and the Chinese were fiercely safeguarding the secrets of it's processing method.

During the early 18th century, Kaolin was found for the first time at Saxe. In 1713 it's firing process, which was different from other ceramic products was identified as well. Towards the end of the 18th century Kaolin was finally discovered around Limoges in France. This started the history of Limoges porcelain. A small town, Limoges was one of the oldest in the French kingdom. In the beginning one manufacturing facility was set up, rapidly followed by several more, prominently to meet the demands of European courts. The most prestigious 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 specificity.

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National Museum - Pouyat          Assiette a fruits - biscuit en relief


The  Limoges Porcelain in the pictures above have been recreated  by the world renowned Limoges porcelain company of Robert Haviland and C. Parlon and can be  viewed and purchased at:-


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Elegance2003  collection
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