Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Sèvres, Cité de la Céramique

A twin museum for Musée National Adrien Dubouché in Limoges, Sèvres is just a metro line away in Pont de Sèvres, on the edge of the Paris spiral. The manufacture was founded in 1740 in Vincennes and both Madame Pompadour and Louis XV had their royal businesses with the factory, naturellement.

A museum focused on ceramics is a rare treat but Sèvres is making sure to be the best one of them, with the squeakiest floors. They introduce the visitor to the craft with a quick ceramic history lesson starting with turquoise Ancient Egyptian paste and focusing on the discovery of porcelain in France. Since Limoges porcelain is said to be the best of the best porcelain in Europe it was interesting to notice that some of the most important pieces at the Sèvres museum weren't made of porcelain after all but of pâte tendre.
By an illustrated animation they explain how a Sèvres Duplessis Children vase (designed by Jean-Claude Duplessis in the 1750's) was built out of soft paste clay. This not very plastic clay body was created to imitate Chinese translucent porcelain. Soft paste did not contain kaolin and was fired lower than porcelain. Soft stands for fragility and the glaze could easily be scratched. According to Sèvres museum, finally in 1768 two Sèvres chemists found a kaolin deposit in Limousin region. Objects could finally be made out of porcelain.  

They pointed out, that making such an object in the manufacture would have needed 10 professionals. So today, consider ceramic art made by ceramic artists something worth seeing. I feel like it's good to mention here that in our studio community everything from material research, plaster molds, glazing, kiln loading, and gilding are done by the same person, the artist. Also a hand made object or one made in a manufacture would be something worth purchasing, as well.

The collection at Sèvres museum is compact comparing to Adrien Dubouché's vast collection but in Sèvres they do have a surprising and interesting selection of ceramic curiosities: super lumpy shino glazes from Japan, a flawed (flawless) majolica plate with crawled tin glaze, and jaw dropping jasper miracles. Their temporary exhibition of works by Elmar Trenkwalder was amazing. It was refreshing to see so monumental and unapologetic hand built sculptures.