Limoges China and Porcelain

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First thing to know about Limoges is that it is a city, not a manufacturer. Limoges porcelain is porcelain from Limoges. It is an area known for fine bone china. 

Cities in France have a habit of creating signature, high-quality eponymous products that create trends and styles of similarly fashioned items. Sometimes, that namesake doesn’t actually hold to the same standard. For example, technically it’s only a champagne if it’s from Champagne. Your headache-inducing cheap “champagne” may actually be a knockoff sparkling wine. It may even be a really good sparkling wine, better than some champagnes, but still not actually champagne. Chocolate, by distinction, is chocolate wherever it goes. 

The same tendency to create signature, regional products applies to porcelain. Limoges porcelain is not a manufacturer, a collective, or a distributor. Limoges a city known for a specific, hard-paste porcelain art manufactured regionally by a variety of producers. 

The most famous producer of Limoges porcelain is Haviland & Co.

History of Limoges Porcelain

The history of Limoges’ porcelain production goes as far back as the 12th century, when it became known for its enamel work. In the 18th century, one of the main components of china was discovered in the region—kaolin. A rich supply of a rock substances good for porcelain in the nearby area completed the ideal conditions for high-quality porcelain production. The quarries started in 1768.  By 1771, production could begin.

The premium china produced in Limoges gained eminence. Eventually, the manufacturers gained royal patronage and ultimately purchase by King Louis XVI in 1784. After the French Revolution, 1799, the manufacturing was privatized. 

Haviland & Co, founded in 1842, is the most famous of the Limoges porcelain companies.

Features from Limoges Manufacturing

As an area of multiple manufacturers and not specific private producers, the artwork was sometimes outsourced. Previous to private factories, blank, high-quality pieces could be shipped to Paris for artisan painting and enamel work. That enamel work is often too worn to hold high value. As a result, existing pieces prior to 1815 that do manage to hold the artwork are rare and maintain exceptionally high value. 

The premium china produced in Limoges gained eminence. Eventually, the manufacturers gained royal patronage and ultimately purchase by King Louis XVI in 1784. After the French Revolution, 1799, the manufacturing was privatized. 

Haviland & Co, founded in 1842, is the most famous of the Limoges porcelain companies.

Private Companies Lead Porcelain Pattern Trends

While Limoges was a raw producer of plain porcelain for a time, as they privatized they became increasingly the home for design houses and companies. More premier companies consolidated in Limoges, including Tharaud, Alluaud, Pouyat, and others. 

As the classism that had epitomized fashionable china in the late 18th century waned, a place for new fashions opened. By 1830, designers in the resource-rich Limoges region were able to introduce trendsetting pieces that revived French design. The Rococo revival, known for its ornate and romantic design elements, came into fashion. 

Rococo is known for asymmetrical designs based in opulence and Continental European influences. Flowers, scrollwork, gilding, and complex embellishment are common elements of Rococo style. 

Americans Bring French Porcelain to the World Stage

Ironically, the popularity of Limoges china first gained international attention through Haviland & Co, a New York based company. Henry Haviland was an American China dealer. When he finally decided to apply his insight and expertise to building his own china production, he built the largest factory in Limoges. Manufacturing at the source of the kaolin made the most economic sense. 

The Haviland brand soon became so famous a pattern was commissioned by the White House in 1880. By the Victorian period, Limoges china was so popular that knockoffs were commonplace. 

Learn more about other types of china including Aynsley china and English bone china.

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