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Belle Epoque & French Aesthetic movement in Paris

Paris porcelain spill vase together with a footed basket and two plattersParis Porcelain is a term that refers collectively to the various porcelain decorating workshops and studios within and around Paris, France. It is not the name of any single company or manufacturer and is usually applied to items made between mid-19thC to the present day.

Most studios were short-lived, but are well documented. Marks used to identify porcelain from these workshops have been catalogued in various specialized books, and of course in our database, which is constantly updated with even the latest fake marks on Asian imports in the same style. Unlike German marks that are often copies of older Meissen marks, most Paris Porcelain studios applied hand-painted or stamped logos that are quite unique, although some are variations of the original crossed L’s mark used by Sevres.

Paris Porcelain Clock Garniture the clockThere is a distinct quality that characterizes Paris Porcelain. Many pieces are painstakingly hand-decorated in floral or pastoral scenes in soft and pastel colors. The background is usually white or light blue. Very often, porcelain items from Paris studios also have additional decorative details in materials other than ceramic, such as ormolu or metal overlay and mounts, usually in brass or bronze. Their size and scale can be described as “grand”, many are centerpieces for display only and have no utilitarian aspect to them whatsoever. Urns, large porcelain bowls, porcelain vases in pairs or clock garnitures for the mantle are most common examples. For this reason, the vast majority are well preserved and it is rare to find pieces with any significant damage.

Antique Paris Porcelain pieces are the most desired by collectors and are practically always part of an exhibit at most well-stocked museums. The makers are in most cases obscure and generally unknown or have created only a few pieces, but some are from studios with a rich legacy of Imperial financial support and patronage. They have become the quintessential examples of an era when the Fine and Decorative Arts saw an explosion of artisans following the French aesthetic movement during the reign of Napoleon’s descendants in the mid to late19thC. This fruitful period in the world of arts is commonly referred to as “Belle Epoque”, literally meaning “Beautiful Era” in French. A large number of these pieces are in the Greek or Neoclassical style and portray elegant and detailed depictions of mythological or ancient scenes. They are usually also signed by the individual artist who decorated them and in addition to the regular porcelain marks of the factory or kiln that produced the original blanks.

Pair of Paris porcelain neoclassical garnitures in the form of ram's headsAn exact address that includes the number and street of their location also accompany the names for many Paris Porcelain studios and workshops. Rue de Paradis-Poissonniere, Rue du Jour, and Rue de la Fontaine-au-Roi are common examples of names of streets in Paris that many of these workshops were situated.  These studios often also served as a retail operation to sell their wares. Because of the concentration of many of these in central Paris, these workshops also became a frequent stop for the well-to-do Parisians that wished to have porcelain centerpieces made to order or on commission as a gift for a loved one.

Some notable Paris Porcelain studios include LAHOCHE & PANNIER - L' ESCALIER de CRISTAL ca 1840s - 1880s, LA MAISON ART NOUVEAU BING - GEORGES de FEURE ca 1880s - 1920s, MANUFACTURE de MADAME DUCHESSE d'ANGOULEME - P.L. DAGOTY AND E. HONORE'S FACTORY ca 1815 – 1822, E. JAQUEMIN [Fontaineblau] ca 1860s - 1880s, BAURY & VION ca 1845 - 1880s, BOURDOIS & BLOCH - ACHILLE BLOCH - ROBERT BLOCH - PORCELAINE DE PARIS ca 1829 – Present and many-many others. It is estimated that more than 300 independent and separate studios operated in Paris at some time or another between late 18thC to Present.

Tall EDME SAMSON, Paris, Porcelain Figures of JUNO and ATHENA, 4th qtr 19thCEdme Samson, who founded Samson Ceramique in 1845, was also a well-known firm that made accurate replicas or reproductions of older porcelain well into the 1960s. In addition to their own unique marks, this company marked their items with symbols very similar to marks seen on the actual original pieces they were copying. However and in most cases, they added the letter “S” or some other sign to indicate that this was a copy. Their items from mid-to-late 19thC are valued today as of high quality and are now considered to be essentially antique.

Values and prices at auction of Paris Porcelain pieces vary significantly and depend on their size as well as their level of decorative detailing, and are usually high. Original 19th or early 20thC pieces fetch the most, especially if they are in great condition and have been identified properly.

To identify makers' marks on porcelain or pottery from all regions of France and find prices to determine values for your Antique or Vintage collectibles, please see our Marks4Antiques services with thousands of examples of makers marks and millions of auction results for related items.

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