Bleu céleste

imageIn my recent jaunt to New York, I stopped in at the Frick museum. I love the Frick’s intimate size and their temporary exhibits are always interesting. This time, one of their exhibits featured French porcelain made at Sèvres, the preeminent eighteenth-century porcelain manufactory, collected by the wealthy industrialist.

imageIn France, hard-paste porcelain was produced in one of the towers of the old royal château of Vincennes. Due to its rarity and high cost, Louis XV and his mistress Madame de Pompadour took a particular interest in the porcelain. Ultimately the manufactory was moved the town of Sèvres, halfway between the royal castles of the Tuileries and Versailles so that the king could keep tabs on it. Louis XV was the principal stockholder of the company and it became the most important soft-paste porcelain factory in Europe. Famous artists such as François Boucher provided highly detailed designs. Also key to the manufactory’s success was the continual innovation of new colors, such as bleu céleste (bluh say-lest) or sky blue.

imageIn the 18th century, Sèvres porcelain was owned exclusively by the royalty and the wealthiest people. That hadn’t changed much when Frick began his collection in 1916. He paid over $100,000 for his first three pieces. Although the porcelain was originally meant to be functional, sets were broken up and the porcelain became purely decorative. A Sevrès sugar bowl displayed in a curio cabinet was a way to show the collector’s good taste and wealth. Frick interspersed his porcelain among the rooms of his mansion to enhance his other works of art. The colors are just as brilliant today as they were nearly 300 years ago, particularly that brilliant bleu céleste. You can see the exhibit until April 24, 2016.

imageVincennes and Early Sevrès Porcelain

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About Patricia Gilbert

Patricia Gilbert is a French teacher. She's Canadian, lives in the United States, but dreams of living in France. Follow her on Instagram @Onequalitythefinest and on Twitter @1qualthefinest.
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