The Chitra Collection: European Porcelains

The Chitra Collection: European Porcelains
This 1761 soft-paste porcelain teapot is by Sèvres, the French porcelain factory that was originally founded in 1740 in the premises of the Royal Château of Vincennes. In 1756, it transferred to Sèvres and shortly afterwards was purchased by Louis XV at the request of his mistress Madame de Pompadour. The pot was decorated by Antoine Joseph Chappuis, who was employed at the factory from 1761 to 1787 and specialized in painting birds and flowers. The pink marbled decoration on this pot was particularly popular between 1761 and 1763 and was used for the factory’s most discerning clients, particularly members of the court at Versailles. The pot was offered in five different sizes; this is the fifth and smallest size.

In England, no hard-paste manufacture was made until the 1760s after deposits of kaolin clay were discovered in Cornwall. So, when Daniel Defoe wrote of “Porcelaine” manufacture in his Tour Through the Whole Island of Great Britain in 1748, it was artificial porcelain to which he was referring. “The first village we come to is Bow: where a large manufactory of Porcelaine is carried on. They have already made large quantities of Tea-cups, saucers, plates, Dishes. . . .” Was this increase in the production of soft-paste porcelain in England the reason for the more widespread use of milk in tea at the end of the 17th and beginning of the 18th century? Tea bowls made of Chinese hard-paste porcelain were tough and withstood the high temperatures of freshly brewed tea, but European and English soft-paste porcelain bowls cracked more easily when tea was poured into them. A small amount of cold milk poured into the bowl first may have helped avert costly breakages, and the new fashion created a demand for porcelain milk jugs.


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