For centuries, the products of the Sevres procelain factory have been regarded as some of the finest porcelain in the world. The origins of Sevres are in the Vincennes factory. The factory was established around 1740 in a disused royal chateau in the eastern suburbs of Paris. Soft paste porcelain was made at Vincennes and it produced finely sculpted and decorated wares in the latest Rococo fashion which quickly found royal patronage. The Sevres style of porcelain was very influential on many other European factories especially those in Britain. Early British porcelain was developed by keen and determined business men, in contrast to the Sevres porcelain like Meissen which had royal patronage and was funded directly by Louis XV.

Heavy kiln loss blighted many early porcelain factories and Vincennes was no different, by 1750 the factory was in severe financial trouble. King Louis XV was the key supporter of Vincennes and gradually took procession of the factory by continuously buying up shares. He achieved complete ownership by 1759, and also granted permission for the factory to use the King’s cypher the crossed LL’s mark which forms the famous blue monogram found on both Vincennes and Sevres. A monopoly was granted by the King to the Vincennes factory which prevented any other French factory from using polychrome decoration. This monopoly stood until 1780.

In 1756 the Vincennes factory moved to a new purpose built four story factory at Sevres designed by architect Laurent Lindet. From this point forwards the Sevres factory became the concern of Louis XV who along with his mistress Madame du Pompadour and his grandson Louis XVI were the main commissioners.

Louis XV decorated many flats for his personal use with the finest productions of the Sevres factory. One Versailles flat ‘Les cabinets du Roi’ (the Kings Cabinet) became an exhibition space for Sevres finest porcelain.  The Sevres factory also manufactured exquisite services which were destined to be Royal gifts and diplomatic presents. These included the gilt studded blue ground service which cost 17,000 livres to produce and was gifted by Louis XV to the Duchess of Bedford.

As Sevres was the king’s factory economy was not the key concern and quality was paramount. Consequently any porcelain blank which had even the slightest defect was stored away and not decorated. When the French revolution arrived the Sevres factory faced financial crisis and many of these white wares were sold off to be outside decorated.

In 1800 Alexandre Brongniart became director of Sevres returning the factory to its former glory, modernising productions and using the latest fashions of the Neoclassical style and the Empire taste. In 1804 soft paste porcelain was completely abandoned in favour of a more durable hard paste formula which had been developed in the late 18th century.

During the early 19th century the Sevres factory also began to produce copies of famous paintings. These finely painted panels copied many major artists, and were similar to the panels produced by KPM in Germany. Throughout the 19th century the Sevres factory continued to be an innovator in ceramic production and produced wares in many eclectic historical styles including Gothic and Renaissance. Historicism was not the only influence at Sevres, the European enthusiasm for Japanese style was embraced by the factory in the later quarter of the 19th century. 

With the advent of Art Nouveau style the Sevres factory moved with the times and embraced new technical advances. At the 1900 Universal Exposition in Paris they put on a display of show stopping products to great critical acclaim. Despite the turbulent history of the 20th century the high quality production of the Sevres factory remains intact today. In 2009 the factory became a public organisation and now focusses on utilising artisan techniques on both contemporary and traditional models.



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