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. J
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.