Limoges and its industries

Harper's New Monthly Magazine 10, 1888

By Theodore Child

Limoges is of interest as being the centre of the French porcelain manufacture, as the former seat of the medieval goldsmith's art, as the place where the art of enamel was carried to the highest degree of perfection after the Renaissance, and finally because, having been only sparingly modified by modern improvements, it has retained in a great measure the physiognomy of a medieval town. Broad streets, straight boulevards, and handsome modern buildings are not unknown at Limoges, but the greater part of the town is composed of narrow and tortuous alleys, winding,in and out around the Cathedral of St.Etienne and the Church of Saint-Michel des Lions, which crown they two hills on which Limoges is built. These hills form a sort of amphitheatre commanding a view of the immense valley of the river Vienne.

In the old streets, such as the Portail Saint-Imbert, or the Rue des Petits Carmes, we can figure to ourselves how the people lived four or five hundred years ago. The quaint old houses have not changed. They line the narrow streets just as they did of old, with their red crinkled-tiled roofs projecting over the roadway, their gables at all possible angles, their timbers forming network over the walls, and their Gothic or Roman doors studded with big nails, like the doors of a prison. Generally the ground-floor alone is built of stone, and a niche is reserved on the outer wall for an image of the Virgin or of some aaint. Opening on the street was the shop and the workshop, and at the back the kitchen, which was also the reception and sitting room at Limoges, even in well-to-do houses, up to the beginning of the present century. The furniture of the kitchen was composed of a table, some stools, a dresser with its charge of pewter plates, and a few pieces of faience. The big open fireplace was adorned with andirons, and crossed by spits geared to a primitive mechanism worked by some domestic animal, generally a dog, sometimes a goose or a turkey. One has only to peep into the gloomy and smoky interiors in these old streets to see that the domestic arrangements have undergone but little change. Nor in so doing will you appear indiscreet or prying, for the doors are wide open, and the women and children are sitting in the gutter, in company with chickens and queer brindled dogs, who bask in the sun undisturbed by vehicles, which can scarcely venture into these steep and narrow alleys.

The porcelain industry at Limoges is of comparatively recent origin. The discovery of porcelain clay — kaolin and feldspath at Saint-Vrieix, near Limoges, dates from 1765, and the first hard porcelain manufactory was established in 1773, by MM. Grellet, Massier, and Fourneyrat. But it was not until about 1830 that the industry became really important, and it is within the last twenty years only that the production of Limoges has achieved perfection in the manufacturing processes and at the same time acquired an artistic stamp in form and decoration. It is interesting to notice that these results are largely due to American enterprise. In 1839 a lady came to the store of Messrs. Daniel and David Haviland, in New York city, and asked them if they could match a porcelain cup which she showed them. The cup was of French manufacture; it was the first that the Havilands had seen, and the paste seemed so far superior to that of the English china and faience which they were in the habit of selling that they conceived the idea of introcucing similar goods into the American market, believing that the speculation would be profitable. Full of this idea, Mr. David Haviland came to France with the cup, and began to inquire where such ware was made. His researches led hint to Vierzon, and thence to Limoges. His desire was to obtain English shapes and English patterns executed in French porcelain. The matter seemed simple enough; the only obstacle Mr. Haviland had to contend against was routine and usage. When he asked the Limoges manufacturers for English shapes, they replied, "We do not make them; we have not the moulds."

"Very good," replied Mr. Haviland; "I will give you the moulds;" and he proceeded to make his moulds. Then, having his articles in white, he wished to have them decorated in the English style, to suit the taste of his buyers.

"We cannot execute that kind of decoration," replied the manufacturers.

*Haviland and Company produce about ten per cent, of the whole of the porcelain now made at Limoges. In 1886 there were in the town and district 35 porcelain manufactories, possessing 86 kilns, and giving employment to some 5000 per. sons; 62 decorating establishments, employing 2000 hands; and 30 mills for grinding and preparing the clay."Very good," replied the indomitable American; "I will train some decorators for you." And he proceeded to hire professors and to teach a hundred apprentices to paint natural flowers in the English manner. The end of it was that French routine and want of enterprise forced Mr. Haviland to establish gradually a complete porcelain manufactory, which since its foundation in 1836 has grown to be the largest and most excellently organized of all the manufactories in the Limousin district. At present the I faviland works at Limoges have nine kilns, cubing each from eighty to one hundred and twenty metres; they employ, when in full activity, 1200 hands, and manufacture 6000 plates a day, to mention only one typical article.* Furthermore, the Havilands have revolutionized the porcelain industry by taking prompt advantage of all the discoveries of modern science, by perfecting the baking kilns, by the introduction of lithography and engraving in decoration, and generally by substituting in the making of current articles mechanical processes for hand labor — a fact which has enabled them to diminish the difference in price between porcelain and fine faience so that now eighty porcelain plates cost no more than one hundred faience plates.

* I refer those interested in the technology and scientific and practical details of the modern French manufacture to M. Dubreuil's volume on porcelain, forming the fifth volume of Frémy's Encyclopédie Chimique. Paris. Dunod. 1885The principal stages of the manufacture of pottery have been so often described that it would be useless to go over the ground again. The general reader may be supposed to be familiar with the outlines of the subject, and it is not in these pages that specialists will seek details and recipes which come within the province of special works.* For some time past the preparation of the clay for pottery has been executed by machinery; the grinding, mixing, kneading, filtering, and desiccation of the paste an executed by a series of apparatus which requires very little attention, and therefore renders the production of the raw material of porcelain very cheap. The problem that has been presented to manufacturers of late has been the extension of steam-power to the fashioning of this raw material. In order to be able to contend against the cheap labor of Germany and against the makers of fine faience, the French manufacturers felt that mechanical production was absolutely necessary. Their aim was to be able to produce porcelain economically, rapidly, and by means which could be readily increased or diminished according to the situation of the market. On the other hand, it seemed impossible to replace by a mechanical operation the skilful fingers of the potter, his constant intelligent attention, and his sure and prompt eye. However, modern engineers are loath to admit anything to be impossible, and, thanks to the enterprise of Messrs. Haviland, M. Faure, of Limoges has been enabled to carry out a series of experiments which have resulted in the construction of machines for fashioning porcelain clay so simple and so ingenious that we may safely say that hence-forward the primitive potter's wheel may be relegated to the museum of antiquities.

Vases, bowls, all open hollow vessels, cups, saucers, plates, and dishes are now made by machines. To describe these machines thoroughly would need many diagrams and an abundant use of technical terms. I will confine myself to a brief indication of the mechanical operations by which plates are made on the Faure vertical moulding lathes. The prepared clay is handed to the workman in balls proportionate to the mass of the piece to be made. The operator has before him three machines forming the series. First of all he places the ball of clay on the head or mandrel of a vertical lathe, on which a cam descends gradually, while the head revolves until the ball is flattened into a circular croûte or cake of the necessary thickness, at which point the cam ascends automatically, and remains stationary until the operator sets it to work on a new ball of clay. This croûte is transferred to the second machine, and centred on a disk, which demends and deposits it on a mould of the form of the inside of the plate, fixed on a revolving head, the axis of the centring disk and the axis of the mould and lathe head being identical. With a sponge the operator presses the croûte over the mould, guiding the sponge from the centre toward the edges. The surplus clay having been removed, the mould, with the adhering croûte, is transferred to a third lathe head, over which is fixed a calibre, or cutting tool of special shape. This calibre descends into contact with the revolving croûte, and in a few turns forms the under side of the plate, the rim, and the headings, if there are any, of the thickness desired. The thinning and fettling of the edge of the rim are done on is fourth lathe, which has no special interest. The three operations of making the croûte, centring, and calibrage are performed by one workman, the movement of the machines being automatic, and in a working-day of ten hours one man can mould six hundred plates, all perfectly regular, identical in form and size, and cheaper aed better than the old-fashioned handmade pieces. The suppression of water in the fashioning assures less shrinkage, and consequently less wear of the moulds, and a great economy for the manufacturer. In the baking of machine-made plates the results are excellent, and the waste and inferior pieces almost a negligible quantity.

M. Faure has also invented a machine for making regular and irregular oval dishes, that is to say, dishes of which the rim has or has not the same inclination and an identical profile all round. The croûte is produced, centred, and deposited on the mould in the same way as in the making of round plates, and the oval form is then determined by an eccentric movement of the table on which the mould is placed, the movements of translation and of rotation combining into a closed elliptical curve. In making regular oval dishes the calibre or fashioning tool descends regularly upon the clay croûte. In the machine for making irregular oval rims, the croûte, centred on the disk, whose axis corresponds exactly with the axis of the mould, is let down vertically on to the mould, and fashioned with the sponge. The calibres, in two parts, are then brought into position, and while one calibre, moving independently and evenly, fashions the bottom of the dish, the other calibre is articulated with and follows the movements of the elliptical table on which the mould rests, and of which the profile corresponds with the inclinations and undulations of the rim of the dish.

For the reason already stated we shall not need to visit in detail the various departments of the Haviland manufactory, or to describe the delicate operations of moulding, casting egg-shell cups, printing, lithographing, gilding, firing in the big kilns, firing in the muffle furnaces. Our illustrations will give an idea of a few of the characteristic scenes. Here is the huge filter press, with its forest of serpentine pipes, through which the liquid paste, or barbotine, is forced by steam-pumps into narrow compartments braced together by screws. In these compartments it is filtered through calico cloths, and the water pressed out. When the filtering is finished the press is unscrewed, and the clay is taken out in oblong cakes, which have to be still further compacted and kneaded before they pass into the potter's hands. Here we see a moulder in the act of cutting up the layer of paste, with which he will make a very complicate piece — a basket from which an angry duck protrudes his head, and frightens away a too venturesome little boy. To make this piece the moulder must be somewhat of a sculptor too, in order to fit together the many fragments of which the object is made. On the table and on the shelves stand the model and the different parts of the mould, which keys together into a heavy and curiously shaped mass of plaster of Paris. Here, in a sunny atelier, women, old and young. wearing the characteristic Limousin head-dress, the barbichet, are burnishing gilt ornaments on finished pieces, and gossiping in the strange dialect of the country. The burnishers are, of all the porcelain workers, those who have remained most recaleitrant to progress; they work, dress, and talk just as they did a century ago. Yet another characteristic scene of the Limoges porcelain industry and of the Limousin country in general is the team of oxen. Harnessed simply by a band across the forehead, these patient animals draw enormous loads of kaolin, and in fact, as we have seen, are almost the only beasts of draught used in the whole district.

The source of the artistic success of the Havilands is to be sought in the thorough comprehension of the nature and qualities of porcelain, and in the rational study of decoration. Instead of remaining, as most of the French makers so long remained, in the routine consecrated by the high example of Sèvres, the Havilands went back to the fountain-head of ceramic art, and studied the products of China, Japan, and Persia, where they found a treasure of typical forms and a theory of perfect decoration. Furthermore, they conceived so high an opinion of the beauty of porcelain that they ventured to call in the aid of artists to decorate their products, and men like Bracquemond, Delaplanche, Dammouse, Aubé, and Dalon were invited to exercise their fancy in all the materials which the ceramist has at his disposal. The idea seems simple and obvious enough, and yet we have only to reflect a moment to see that it is by no means commonplace.

Let us visit together a ceramic museum. The Musèe Adrien Dubouché at Limoges is the most complete perhaps in the world from the point of view of a historical museum of pottery. The seven thousand pieces which it contains will enable us to form an idea of the history of pottery from the earliest times down to the present day. We will take European pottery first of all, and consider it from two points of view, material and decorative. All these objects that we see are clays baked at a more or less intense heat, and for the most part covered with a surface glaze, enamel or couverte. In some the paste has remained porous after the baking; in others the paste has become compact and impervious to liquids, and even to the scratch of a steel point. Terra-cotta, faience, majolica, grès, hard porcelain, soft porcelain, artificial porcelain — the names and classes are manifold and the component matters various; but the phenomenon of which we see the results in these ceramic products is throughout the same, namely, vitrification.

The ceramic art is an art of vitrification. All clays and marls acquire by firing a degree of vitrification proportionate to the heat which is applied to them, and this application of heat depends upon the materials which are used and upon the product which it is wished to obtain. The more complete the vitrification, the more precious is the aspect of the object. Take, for instance, a piece of glass, ar, piece of rock-crystal, and a diamond; place them side by side, and compare the three objects and the sensations which they produce on the eye. The diamond will evidently give the greatest pleasure. Why? Because it reflects more luminous rays than rock-crystal or glass, and the eye being organized to enjoy light, receives from the diamond a greater sensation of pleasure. But why does the diamond reflect more luminous rays than the other two objects? Because the diamond is more compact, more dense, more homogeneous, and it is more homogeneous because it has been transmuted at a higher temperature. Now if we substitute for these translucid objects ceramic objects, we shall timid that the sensation of pleasure conveyed by them to the eye varies according as the vitrification of the piece is more or less complete; or, in other words, the higher the temperature at which the piece has been transmuted, the more analogous will its aspect be to that of a precious stone. We may base our material classification of ceramics on this scientific fact, and assign them a grade accordingly, and this classification we shall find justified by the instinctive and traditional preferences of connoisseurs, who can imagine nothing finer than that old Chinese translucid porcelain which may be compared to jade; than that blue porcelain which a Chinese poet has described as "blue like the sky, thin as paper, brilliant as a mirror"; or than that white porcelain of which another Chinese poet celebrates the "plaintive sonority," and the "whiteness surpassing the whiteness of snow."

It is to this Chinese porcelain that all the Eastern and European ceramic arts are due. Invented apparently in the second century before our era, Chinese porcelain found its way westward through Persian and Arabian merchants, whose compatriots tried to imitate it, and so discovered the stanniferous faience of the East. Chinese porcelain appears to have penetrated to Europe certainly as early as the tenth century, and Marco Polo, the first European who visited China, where he lived twenty-six years, published in his book at the end of the thirteenth century a note on the nature and even on the processes of the manufacture of porcelain. "The Chinese," he says, "extract, as it were, front a sort of mine a peculiar kind of clay, which they collect in heaps and leave exposed to sun, rain, and wind during thirty or forty years without stirring it. By this long keeping the clay becomes refined and fit to be fashioned into all kinds of vessels. Afterward it is painted with divers colors and baked in a furnace. Thus those who collect the clay bequeath it to their children and grandchildren." By some accident Marco Polo's relatively exact statement as to the nature of porcelain fell into oblivion, and until the eighteenth century, when kaolin and feldspath — its two constituent natural elements were discovered, the wildest theories were current as to its composition.

* English current porcelain is not a true porcelain. It contains, it is true, kaolin and feldspath, but also phosphate of lime and other substances. Above all, it has not a feldspathic couverte, but a plumbiferous glaze somewhat harder than the glaze of the old French páte tendre. Giving credit to these strange recipes, those who tried to make porcelain in Europe were led to employ elements absolutely foreign to translucid pottery, and so discovered majolica, Italian and French faience, grès, and the different kinds of páte tendre, of which the Sèvres páte tendre is an absolutely unique and exquisite matter, suggesting not so much a precious stone as soft satin, or something rare, delicate, and feminine. This French páte tendre, or artificial porcelain, as it is sometimes called, is composed of alkaline "frittes" and carbonate of lime, covered with a lead glaze analogous in nature to flint-glass; it has nothing in common with true porcelain but its whiteness and translucidness.* It has, however, the merit of communicating to the colors applied on its surface an incomparably fine and velvety appearance, for the paste imbibes the colors, which thus become incorporated with it, and produce the illusion, both to the eye and to the touch, of a homogeneous matter. Certainly the blues and roses of old Sèvres páte tendre are delightful beyond expression.

But what are we to say of the Italian and French and other European faiences? Merely from the material point of view the paste is coarse and imperfectly conglomerated. The decoration is painted on the biscuit, under the glaze, and baked at a high temperature, and so they have a certain appearance of homogeneousness, but only an appearance, for in the old faience, just as in the modern fine faience with a plumbiferous glaze, the body of the paste and the glaze do not become intimately incorporated so as to form one whole; they simply adhere more or less solidly together; in short, they are incompletely vitrified. Now compare with any faience or pseudo-porcelain, ancient or modern, a piece of real porcelain, either of the Oriental or of the European family. The paste of both is composed of the same elements, namely, kaolin and petuntse — that is to say, decomposed and undecomposed feldspath — together with accidental quantities of silica, alumine, potash, lime, etc., with which we need not concern ourselves, except so far as to say that the chemical composition of Chinese kaolins and feldspaths is not identically the same as that of the same materials found in Europe. The consequence is that the Chinese paste is more fusible than the European paste, and the Chinese glaze is also more fusible than the European glaze. Chinese porcelain is therefore relatively a tender porcelain, and its fabrication is easier than that of the harder European porcelain, which, contrary to an accepted prejudice, is superior to the Oriental product. The finest hard Limoges or Sèvres porcelain is absolutely the ideal of ceramic production, as far as material superiority is concerned.

But enough of comparisons: let us see what is the aim of the Chinese and of the European porcelain-makers. In the beginning the constituent elements are extracted from the ground separate, and having little or no cohesion or plasticity. Then begins a long process of washing, grinding, mixing, filtering, plunging, sieving, rolling, pressing, and compactng, the whole object of which is to impart to the elements plasticity, absolute homogeneity, and perfect cohesion. The last stage of the transformation is the tiring, which deprives the clay of all moisture, coagulates the constituent molecules, deprives them forever of all plasticity, and transmutes the paste into a hard, white, translucid matter, smooth, brilliant, homogeneous, and so perfectly vitrified that a section of the piece seen under a microscope shows the absolute incorporation of the glaze with the body, which, as they have the same chemical nature and melt at the same temperature, become a perfectly homogeneous vitrified mass

Nature, by decomposing the feldspathic rock into kaolin, has enabled the potter to manipulate a hard stone as easily as the commonest clay. The heat of the porcelain kilns, which may be compared in intensity to the heat of a volcano, restores its rocky quality to the kaolin, and thus the cup or platter of the best French porcelain is identical in material to a cup or platter wrought out of solid feldspath rock, as the Chinese would work jade or rock-crystal.

This analysis of the nature of porcelain and of the theory of the processes by which its elements are transmuted will aid the reader to understand why we chose the diamond as our standard of perfect vitrification. The processes by which nature produces the diamond are imitated by man in the production of porcelain. The pure white porcelain is itself so beautiful that the connoisseur asks for no ornamentation, or admits only those colorations where red and blue alternate, each shade passing imperceptibly into the other — that porcelaine hasardeuse, as the old connoisseurs used to call it, those flambé vases to which modern science has restored the Chinese name of yao-pien — transmutations of porcelain into the semblance of jade, jasper, porphyry, or agate. One must indeed be dull of eye not to admire these jeux de la flamme et du hasard, as a delicate critic. M. Philippe Burly, has termed the deep and mysterious streams of ruby red which seem to have been fixed by some magical power into the form of a vase. What is there more caressing to the eye than those paler reds which the flames have burnt to the color of mulberry juice, or those clouds of tin gray that sweep across a vase like a spring shower, or fall in isolated splashes like the East drops of a summer storm?

The comparison of these flambé vases with onyx or precious stones is all to the advantage of the brilliant porcelain, prepared and modelled by the hand of man, passed into the blind and blinding furnace, and taken out gorgeous in depth and richness of tone, luminous and profound, an intense and rapid delight for the eye. The Orientals attach great price to fine specimens of yao-pien; we Occidentals have followed their example, and our great ceramic artists have endeavored to produce in their furnaces similar works. In 1884 the manufactory of Sèvres exhibited some flambé vases made of the new semi-hard paste, or porcelaine nouvelle, invented by M. Lauth, which would have been as beautiful as Chinese flambés had the porcelain been as hard and as completely vitrified. The same criticism holds good of M. Théodore Deck's flambés, in which the colored glaze is hut imperfectly incorporated with the body. The only really hard European porcelain flambés are a few pieces made by the Havelands, who, after many years of experiments, seem to be now masters of the theory of flambé porcelain, and us much masters of the practice as the hazard of the flames will permit.

Perfectly vitrified paste of the finest quality, or a coloration of this paste in two tones, varied only by the caprice of the flames whipped into furious or caressing tongues by the blasts of oxygen let into the furnace during the burning — such are the ideal productions of the ceramic art from the point of view of the most refined connoisseurs. This, however, we must admit is rather an esoteric point of view, and outside of this pure paradise of porcelain there is much that is delightful, and indeed the whole current production of the art. His eye and his reason confirm the connoisseur in his apparently narrow admiration of pure form and pure color in porcelain; but at the same time he will rentaita accessible to the lesser but incontestable charm of decorated porcelain executed with due regard to appropriateness of means and of design. Not only have the Orientals achieved perfection in the matter of porcelain, but they have also exhausted the resources of beautiful form, and shown by example what decorated porcelain should be, amid what are the most appropriate means to be used. We have only to compare a collection of Oriental decorated porcelain with a collection of European work in order to see at once that, until within a very few years, the decoration of ceramics has been practised rather unintelligently in Europe, with few exceptions, such as the productions of certain periods of Sèvres and Saxe.

The decorations of the old Italian faiences, it may be suggested, are very magnificent. Are they really so fine as fashion represents them to be? Let us say nothing of the forms, or of the coarse material, or of the rudimentary drawing of the figures, but let us ask seriously if the pictured plates and vases of Gubbio and Urbino are models of appropriate ceramic decoration, is a hollow bowl or a soup plate appropriately decorated by complicated battle scenes in which the legs of the warriors are broken by the bulging rims? Is the surface of a plate a fitting place in which to depict mythologic scenes? Shall we not rather regard these storied Italian faiances as merely quaint and curious, just as the Palissy dishes are curious? I confess frankly I have not yet seen a Xantho da Rovigo or a Maestro Giorgio which gave my eyes such rapid and profound pleasure as a simple Persian plate or a Chinese vase covered with a gay bloom of peonies or chrysanthemums. This may seem to be dreadful heresy, but let the reader only see with his own eyes, and free his mind from the subtle influence of tradition and fashion. Let him forget the fabulous prices that are paid by rival collectors for Ferrara plates; let him forget that the celebrated X. has written a learned treatise on faiences with metallic lustre, and that the erudite Z. has published volumes about Oiron ware; and finally let him beware of the fetichism which is inspired by the sight of rows of rare specimens marshalled on the shelves of museums, side by side, like so many mineralogical samples. It is precisely this unreasoning admiration of all that is o'd, and which was rare until the counterfeiters came to the crazy collectors rescue — it is precisely this blind love of mere oldness which is closing people's eyes to the many excellent productions of modern art, and discouraging all the efforts of the manufacturers in an artistic direction.

We ought deliberately to separate the elements of quaintness, rarity, and historical interest from the elements constituting the intrinsic artistic excellence of objects, that is to say, the matter, the form, the appropriateness of the decoration, the color, and the general aspect. If we examine in this spirit not only Italian faiences, but also the faiences of the old French manufactures of Rouen, Marseilles, Nevers, Strasbourg, Saitonge, Moustiers, and Bordeaux, we shall find that their interest is not so much artistic as historical and curious. Old French faience is the unpretentious product of a clever industry with which no men of superior talent ever deigned to concern themselves; the material is coarse, the forms are poor, but often the decoration is in good taste. In the history of the decoration of French porcelain the same phenomenon is to be observed; it was a charming industry when it worked for Madame de Pompadour, Madame Dubarry, or Marie Antoinette, but beside the exquisite and delicate trifles of eighteenth century Sèvres, how often has the immaculate whiteness of porcelain been marred by petty symmetrical designs, obscured by dull landscapes, genre pictures, or portraits of eminent persons framed in royal blue rims? Go through the museum of Limoges or of Sèvres and remark how unintelligent the production of European ceramics has been within the past two hundred years! how poor have been the forms! how imperfect the comprehension of what ornament ought to be, and also of the conditions of ceramic decoration!

It is only within the past fifteen or twenty years that a critical and scientific study of Eastern and Western ceramics has enabled us to establish the theory of this subject of decoration. Apart from engraying, niello, reliefs, and other manipulations of the paste itself, there are some six means of coloring and decorating ceramic products, namely, metallic oxides, engobes — that is to say, natural colored earths or artificially colored pastes applied with more or less relief, as in the vase portrayed on the opposite page, the body of the object being of gres, and the ornamentation in red engobe and green and white porcelain paste — enamels, vitrifiable colors, metals, and metallic lustres. Porcelain has the advantage of accepting all these means of decoration, which, according to their degree of fusibility, are applied by the grand feu of the kiln, or by the petit feu of the muffle.

The grand fen decoration is executed on or under the glaze by means of the most refractory oxides mixed with a flux or without a flux. These oxides penetrate into the paste and form part of it; the color and the body become homogeneous; the whole surface is equally brilliant, because it is equally vitrified. Thus, in judging the decoration of porcelain, the principle of complete vitrifaction serves as a sure guide. In decoration applied by petit feu the colors are merely fixed on the glaze, they have not penetrated into it, nor do they form part of it. Hence the glaze of the porcelain and of the decoration are unequal; the body and the colors are unequally vitrified; the piece is not homogeneous. The main difference between the decoration of Eastern and Western porcelain is that the Western ceramists paint with the processes of picture painters, spreading the pigments with a brush, and using the surface of the porcelain as if it were a panel or a piece of canvas. The Orientals paint, as it were, with translucid gouache; they lay on their tones with a vitreous fluid mixed with coloring matter, or, in other words, with enamels which become identified with the porcelain or faience, and form part of it. These enamels used by the Orientals are silicates, boro-silicates, and phospho-silicates, colored by oxides maintained in solution by the flux; they are applied over the glaze, and melt of a lower temperature than the glaze. The nouvelle porcelaine of Sèvres is decorated in this manner. As we have already seen, this new porcelain is softer than the real hard porcelain, that is to say, its paste and glaze have been composed in such a manner as to be fusible at a lower temperature than the paste and glaze of real hard porcelain — a fact which extends the palette of colors, for few metallic oxides resist the temperature of grand fen.

The problem was to make a porcelain whose enamel would melt below the degree of temperature at which certain metallic oxides volatilize. The solution of Sèvres is admirable, but nevertheless the new porcelain, from an artistic point of view, is less beautiful than the old hard porcelain; one has only to put a piece of old grand fete porcelain in the midst of a collection of objects of the new porcelain to see how much more brilliant and delightful it is, even although its decoration may be less varied and rich. The new porcelain, simply by being less pure and less completely vitrified than the old porcelain, has lost in quality and preciousness all that it has gained in decorative capacity. To the end, then, our principle of complete vitrification will confirm our instinctive preferences. The less complete the vitrification of the decoration, the more will the porcelain object lose its ceramic aspect; and when, like certain Sovres plates and vases, the whole surface is covered with opaque muffle colors, the ceramic aspect is lost entirely, and the plate or vase would look just as well if it were made of tin or wood instead of porcelain.

I had the good fortune to visit Limoges during the very important exhibition of ancient and modern industrial art held there in the town-hall in 1886, which gave me an excellent opportunity of studying both the modern ceramic arts of Limoges and the arts of the goldsmith and of the enameller for which the town was so famous in the Middle Ages, during the Renaissance, and even until the middle of the seventeenth century. Saint Eloi of Limoges became the most famous goldsmith of the seventh century, and after his death the patron saint of the craft. It was at the request of this Saint that King Dagobert founded the monastery of Solignac, near Limoges, which became a great mail factory of goldsmith's work, as also was certainly the case with the immense monastery of Grandmont, whose gold and ver treasures were dispersed over the whole Limousin country at the time of the Revolution.

These mediaeval artists, while producing some table objects, devoted themselves mainly to the manufacture of liturgic work — reliquaries, shrines, coffers — adorned with filigreework, precious stones, and enamels, and destined to contain the relics which the pilgrims and crusaders brought back in quantities front the Holy Land. From an artistic point of view this mediaeval work is curious and interesting rather than beautiful. The workmen, generally monks, were influenced by Oriental taste, and by the asceticism of the primitive Church. Their figures have rough and emaciated physiognomies, expressive of humility or menace; the gestures are those of cursing or blessing or beatitude; the movements are angular, and cramped by narrow vestments. In simple decorative work their genius is more sympathetic, and thanks to the palette of enamels, they soften the Asiatic accent of the object by incrusted ornaments of lapis and turquoise blue, laurel green, and brilliant yellow, arrayed with superior comprehension of the conditions of decoration.

The finest piece of mediaeval Limoges goldsmith's work in existence is considered to be the shrine now belonging to the church of Ambazac, and formerly belonging to that famous and rich monastery of Grandmont, which Kings Henry I. and II. of England used to hold in particular affection. This shrine, twenty-five inches high, twenty-nine inches broad, and ten inches deep, dates from the twelfth century. The form is that of a building, and it is made of gilt brass repousse, ornamente,d with filigree work, cabochons, engraving, and enamelled medallions. This art of enamel, which began by being accessory to the goldsmith's craft, and finally became emancipated and developed into an independent art, deserves more lengthy consideration. It is one of the national arts of France and, the glory of old Limoges, where it was practised with such perfection that it acquired the name of the town where it was best made, and throughout the Middle Ages enamel is always spoken of as opus lemovicense or opus Limogiæ.

Enamel is a sort of glass fusible at a low temperature, composed generally of a mixture of different borates and silicates. This mixture is colorless, but it combines with the greatest facility under heat with all or almost all metallic oxides, and then acquires, according to the nature of these oxides, various colorations, which constitute an incomparably rich palette, comprising almost all the tones of precious stones and gems. Enamel may be applied to pottery, glass, or metals, and fixed by firing. The metals available are those which are less fusible than the enamel itself, na3nely, platinum, which was unknown to the old enamellers, gold, silver, copper, and iron, the latter being the least suitable on account of the readiness with which it oxidates. The processes of enamelling are various. The earliest specimens are champlevés or faille d'épargne, that is to say, the compartments destined to receive the pulverized enamel are reserved in the plate of metal which is wrought by the chisel or by acids. Enamels de basse taille are those in which figures or ornaments are engraved in intaglio on the metal before the translucid enamel is molten over the surface. When these figures are engraved in relief the enamels are called de relief. Translucid enamelling of this kind was invented by John of Pisa, and was much used in Italy in the thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth centuries. Cloisonné enamels are those in which the compartments are formed of thin bands of metal bent into a design and soldered on to the surface of the plate destined to receive the enamel. The old Limoges goldsmiths used chiefly the champlevé process, which sufficed for their simple ornaments. The famous shield and helmet of Charles IX. in the Louvre Museum is decorated with cloisonné and basse taille enamels. But the true Limoges enamel is the so-called painted enamels, invented in the second half of the fifteenth century.

In reality these early enamels, the finest that have ever been produced, are modelled almost in low relief rather than painted; whereas the truly painted enamels are the inferior products of the artists of the end of the sixteenth and of the seventeenth centuries. Let us examine the enamel representing the "Birth of the Virgin," which is engraved in our illustration, and analyze the process of its manufacture. First of all, the artist took a fine sheet of copper, 9 by 8 inches, less than 1/25 of an inch thick, and beaten out at the edges so as to present a slightly convex form, which gives it strength to resist the heat, and retain its shape without curling or crinkling. On the underside he applied a coating of colorless enamel, called counter-enamel, and then turning the plate over delicately, he applied a similar coating to the upper surface, and fired the whole, the object of counter-enamelling the plate being to secure equal contraction and expansion of both sides, otherwise the plate might warp and oxidize in the fire. On the transparent layer of enamel thus obtained he next traced in brown the architectural outlines and the drawing of the figures and drapery, accentuating the shadows with the same tone. Then he took his colored enamels, perfectly pulverized and purified, and with a spatula modelled the dresses, some in emerald green, others in red of the color of wine lees, others in blue, and fired the plate again as convenience required. But the dresses of blue, and also the blue sky, he underlaid with opaque white enamel, in order to prevent the yellow of the copper plate from appearing beneath and impairing the purity of the cerulean tone. Then he modelled the faces and headdresses in white, touched the cheeks with carmine, and finished the plate by laying in a golden sun, and relieving the dresses, the dais, and the curtains of the bed with gold ornaments of thin paillon, continuing the firing after each application of pulverized enamel.

This piece is the perfection of the enameller's art; it is exquisitely drawn and composed; the color is brilliant, and harmonious, and the aspect of singular richness. As we have seen, with the exception of the white faces, the blue draperies, and the sky, the enamel is all translucid, and the brilliant sheen of the polished copper appears through it. The strength of effects obtained by means of translucid masses carrying their color perfectly incorporated, and varying in intensity according to the thickness of the vitrified coat, is greater than the effect of the opaque glaze of grisaille and of the Limoges enamels of the seventeenth century, the epoch of the decadence of the art, which differ only in point of hardness from an ordinary oil-painting covered with varnish. In enamel as in porcelain the criterion of excellence is complete vitrification, solidity, homogeneity. The beauty of enamel consists in its precious gemlike aspect. The "Birth of the Virgin," whieh we have just analyzed, and which is an anonymous masterpiece of the beginning of the sixteenth century, represents the utmost enamel of this kind can give.

The "Crucifixion." figured in the engraving on page 663, an enamel of the end of the fifteenth century, executed by the same simple means, is equally rich in aspect and vigorous in color, though inure summary and less correct in drawing.

The "Entombment," made by Penicaud in the beginning of the sixteenth century, is also an interesting specimen; the whole plate is modelled in white opaque enamel, over which are laid translucid colors.

The medallion of the Virgin by Leonard I. Limosin, 1554, shows the beginning of the decadence of the art by the introduction of processes of drawing, hard outlines, modelling, and shading by means of cross or parallel hatchings; it is simple miniature painting on a background of black enamel.

M. Claudius Popelin has practised and perfected all the processes of Limoges painted enamel, working in the spirit of the Renaissance; MM.Gobert, Lepee, F. de Courey, and Alfred Meyer have also produced good imitations of Limoges work, and miniature portraits worthy of Pelitot, cloisonné enamels in the Japanese style have been produced expensively but successfully in the establishments of Barbedienne and Christophe. But the real innovator and master enameller of the present day is M. Fernand Thesmar, whose work figures with equal honor in the museum of Limoges and in the museum of Tokio. M. Thesmar has the merit of having completed the palette of opaque enamels so far as to be able to execute in enamel any colors and shades of color which the palette of the water-color painter possesses.

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