Manufacture de Sèvres

Time for a break – will be in Spain together with kids and grandkids for a while. Should be back blogging around August 10. In the meantime, here is a very long post, which hopefully will keep my dear “followers” busy for a while. You can also enjoy the Eiffel Tower July 14 fireworks on checking on my preceding post, just below this one.  

This is about the “Manufacture Nationale de Sèvres” and about ceramics. Sèvres is a south-west suburb
of Paris. “Ceramics” refers to objects created with fired clay. They may be porous like faience/earthenware, pottery / terracotta or vitrified, waterproof like stoneware and porcelain.

The “Manufacture Nationale de Sèvres” was actually created at the Castle of Vincennes (see previous post) in 1740, with the support of Louis XV and Madame de Pompadour, before moving to Sèvres in 1756, close to Madame de Pompadour’s “Bellevue Palace”. Madame Pompadour’s castle on a hill overlooking the Seine is gone, but the 1756 "manufacture" (factory) building is still there, today housing a school. The "manufacture" and its museum moved to its present location on the Seine banks in 1875.

(There are some “maps” on the bottom of this post, which may give you some better ideas of the locations.)

The “manufacture” at Sèvres is particularly known for its porcelain, including in its special unglazed form, “biscuit”. Porcelain was produced in China well BC. It was only in the beginning of the 18th century that Europe managed to find the secrets of porcelain production (after spying in China) and simultaneously one also found the needed material, kaolin, e.g. close to Meissen on the Elbe River and in France, close to Limoges.

Here is a general view of the present 1875 “manufacture” installations, with the museum building in front and in front of the museum a statue of Bernard Palissy (1510-90), famous as a potter, researcher and Huguenot. (Further up on the hill, we can see the “Pavillon de Breteuil”, with origins from 1672. From 1875 on it has housed the “International Bureau of Weights and Measures” which under the “Metric Convention” helps to ensure the uniformity of weights and measures around the world, including the worldwide time of the day. Here are stored the standard meters, kilograms etc… today only of historical interest as measured by scientific methods.)      
Let’s first visit the museum, walking up the stairs to the second floor. 

This is where we find a collection of French earthenware and porcelain and also some masterpieces of other European origins.

You may be impressed by the details on some “biscuit” work – especially the feet.  

The first floor is devoted to ceramics through history, from antiquity, the Middle Ages… and from all continents… 

… including this della Robbia “Madonna and Child” (seen from front and back). 

Part of the first floor offers space for temporary exhibitions, at present (until October 27) you can find works by the contemporary Austrian artist Elmar Trenkwalder, produced at Sèvres….  

… and also some space for “shopping”, considering that each single plate costs several hundreds of Euros and, some of the art, tens of thousands.

Behind the museum building you can find the workshops and even housing facilities for part of the personnel. Under the slightly reddish "cover" are stored large volumes of rain water, the only water that is considered pure enough for the production. 

I got the opportunity to visit some of the workshops and get some explanations about the production processes. 

There are a number of old ovens, still occasionally used, needing 48 hours to reach temperatures as high as 1300 centigrades (2400 Fahrenheit) and 15 to 20 days to cool down, today of course completed by more modern equipment.  

Some examples of pieces of art found around the workshops. 

One is of course especially impressed by the skill of personnel painting, here on some of the official presidential Elysée Palace porcelain.  

At the moment you can also visit a “Sèvres Outdoors” exhibition (until September 21), by walking around the surrounding gardens, including the previous residence of the site director. 

If you now look further on the “maps” below, you may also notice that just behind the factory, you can find what is referred to as the “Jardin Fleuriste de Marie Antoinette”, there since the 18th century and today the official supplier of flowers to the different State Palaces. I also traced the old road between Paris and Versailles.

The top picture is of what can be found in the entrance to the second floor, “Torchère” (Torch-holder), by Louis-Robert Carrier-Belleuse, manufactured at Sèvres in 1883.  


July 14, concert, fireworks...

I published a few photos from the concert and fireworks around the Eiffel Tower July 14 on Facebook. I took a number of photos and felt that I should show some more here as the “show” was quite exceptional.

The weather was perfect. It seems that we were some 500.000 in front of the Tower, on the Champs de Mars.

We listened to the Orchestre Nationale de France, the Choir and the Music-School of the French Radio, directed by Daniele Gatti and to top class singers like Natalie Dessay, Anna Netrebko, Elina Garanca, Olga Peretyatki, Piotr Beczala, Lawrence Brownlee and Laurent Naouri. Our President, Prime Minister, the Mayor of Paris… were there. Even though I wasn’t too far from the scene, it was nice to have some giant screens. The whole thing was broadcast on television in a number of countries. (For a couple of days you can find the total "show" here.) I made some very short videos to give you an idea of what we listened to which you can find on Facebook and at the bottom of this post you can see a video of the fireworks part as found on the net.

The sky and the Tower changed colours during the concert.

After the concert, it was time for the fireworks, probably the most spectacular ever made around the Tower. There was some kind of story with reference to the World Wars, Peace, Europe, France… 


Gustave Caillebotte

I already posted about Gustave Caillebotte, when an exhibition took place at the Jacquemart-André museum in 2011 (see here). However, after a visit at another, at present ongoing, exhibition of some his works, I thought I must talk about him again.

You may realise that for once the top picture is not one of my own photos. What I show is one of Caillebotte’s most famous paintings, “Les raboteurs de parquet” (The floor planers), quite controversial for its time, in 1875, with its realistic subject.

Gustave Caillebotte was only 45 when he died in 1894. He was one of the impressionists, although often painting in a more realistic style. He participated in the second impressionist exhibition in 1876, but he was more particularly a good and generous friend to the others in the group. Contrary to most of the other members, he was born in an upper-class family and he regularly helped the others economically, buying their paintings…. In my previous post about him I referred to the fact that in his will he donated 68 impressionist paintings, including some of the today most famous ones, to the French government - Renoir being the executor. The impressionists were not yet in fashion and more or less half of the collection was, even after several attempts, refused - today partly in private collections, partly just lost! 

The Caillebotte family owned and lived in a house at 77 rue Miromesnil (still there) ….  

… and had also a fabulous country house at Yerres, south-east of Paris. This is where the present exhibition (until July 20) takes place.  Here are some pictures from the buildings and the large beautiful park on the banks of the River Yerres. 

The paintings exhibited at Yerres are mostly related to what Caillebotte painted there. I have compared some of these paintings with my photos. 

Some additional paintings from Yerres. 

The parents died, the Yerres property was sold and Gustave and his brother (see more about him in the previous post) moved to a flat, which according to my findings must be this one, in a building at present occupied by Galeries Lafayette, close to Opera Garnier. We can see some of the paintings which obviously partly have been made here with views from and on the balconies of this flat. 

I checked on the location where Caillebotte made some of his other Paris paintings. I was surprised to see the location of this famous one, Place de Dublin (in 1877 with the name Carrefour de Moscou), in easy walking distance from where I live. The place has changed atmosphere since. 

It was more difficult to find the right angle of these paintings from the Place de l’Europe, a bridge over the Gare Saint Lazare rail tracks, and the protecting fences have changed.  

This one must have been painted from a top floor of another Galeries Lafayette building, nowadays with an “H&M” shop on the ground floors. 

When his brother married, Gustave moved definitely to a property bought at Petit Gennevilliers, today an industrial area north of Paris, but then a nice place at the countryside, on the Seine River, where Gustave could enjoy some of his favourite activities, sailing, and receive his friends. Among the paintings here we can recognise a portrait of Madame Renoir.