A signed LIMOGES FRANCE Teaset and Cake plate with hand-painted rose decoration
As most people know, Limoges is actually a city in west-central France, the capital of a region called Limousin. However, in the world of antiques & collectibles, this term refers collectively to items made in Limoges and nearby locale or in that style.
Therefore, a generic Limoges mark on a decorative china plate or porcelain box does not necessarily correspond to any specific company or studio, but rather to one of more than 300 independent producers or decorators from that region that flourished since the middle of 19thC to Present. Many of these companies and decorating studios were established by local Limoges businessmen or individual artisans and some by foreign investors, such as Theodore Haviland from America. Although Haviland eventually moved some of their operations back to America in the 1930s, a modernized and well-equipped factory still remains in operation in Limoges, France.
Many marks on Limoges porcelain & chinaware are indeed generic and feature a general symbol or simply the word “LIMOGES”. The vast majority of these were made by larger factories in the area and then sold to independent decorative studios for hand-painting. Professional as well as occasional decorators in the surrounding region have played a significant role in making these items attractive to buyers because of their unique flair in beautiful designs. They usually sign their name or place their initials somewhere within the decoration or on the back, yet there is no official registry that lists them. Some of them worked either directly or indirectly for larger companies or had their own studios (atelier).
When a hand-painted Limoges plate or dinner service has more than one mark, especially if these marks are stamped, it means that these items have been made by a certain factory and then outsourced for decoration to yet another. A third backstamp or mark may be that of a Trading company or an Exporters/Importers firm, frequently based in the USA. In this case, most of these Limoges trading logos have been documented and/or registered and are included in the Ceramics section of our database at our marks4antiques.com research website along with a brief history or fact sheet on each company. Although the quality of just about all items made in Limoges is exceptionally high regardless of the company that made them or decorated them, these marks can help us estimate their age with a fair degree of accuracy. Vintage or antique Limoges porcelain items are obviously more valuable, whereas newer examples are sometimes made for the Tourist trade. In fact, many recent Limoges plates and souvenirs, such as small and cute porcelain boxes, are actually made in China or the Far East as “blank ware” (undecorated white ware) and are then hurriedly decorated locally in Limoges so that they can be legally stamped as Limoges.
French Limoges is NOT related to items made by the American LIMOGES CHINA company and brand located in Sebring, Ohio. Their use of this name was legal (there is no restriction to using names of places in a trademark), but was meant to ride on the reputation of genuine French articles for marketing purposes. Although they employed a trained master from Europe to achieve thin porcelain, this effort was disrupted by a major fire soon thereafter and the company returned to making earthenware and semi-vitreous porcelain. Still of high quality, but these early-to-mid- 20thC Ohio Valley products were usually slightly chunkier and less expensive to buy.
Limoges CORONET hand-painted porcelain display wall plate
The decorative style most prevalent on authentic Limoges plates, vases or chinaware and other similar objects is characterized by its dainty floral motifs with simple lines and pastel colors. Birds and other small animals are also frequently seen. Most common colors are yellow, lilac, green, pink or red, and light blue. Many have plenty of white spaces, especially on dinnerware. pastoral scenes or mythological classical depictions. Faces of human figures are quite rare on items from Limoges. A sharp departure was observed on items made in the early part of the 20thC when we begin to see many examples of Art Deco or Art Nouveau designs as was appropriate and popular for the period. Chinaware meant for use as dinnerware often have elegantly hand-painted fish or hunting scenes and other food-related images, like fruit, to enhance their intent of use. Gilt borders or hand-applied accents in gold color add yet another fine detail to some Limoges porcelain, for example on Oyster plates, which unfortunately rubs off or fades after a few decades, but is quite normal to have them retouched or restored by a professional. Most glazes applied on Limoges wares are usually transparent and thin, but very durable, and rarely develop signs of wear, like crazing, unless used excessively or stored poorly.
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