This is the first in a series of articles that will explore the history of some of the world's finest china manufacturers!
For over 200 years, Limoges porcelain has been made by several different factories, all located in the same region of France. The term "Limoges" refers to the geographic origin of the piece, not a particular company, and is associated with a high standard of quality that is well-known around the world.
A piece is usually stamped with the word "Limoges" and a symbol or set of initials. This mark can be traced to the actual manufacturer.
The soil in the region is rich in kaolin and feldspar, the essential materials for making hard paste porcelain. When production first began in the late 1700s, plentiful forests readily supplied wood to fuel the kilns, and nearby rivers provided convenient transportation for trade.
By 1850, the main industry of Limoges was the production of porcelain. About 75% of the ware was exported, mostly to America. Entire families worked in the factories, performing tasks ranging from manufacturing to shipping.
In the United States and Canada, owning a set of Limoges table china became a status symbol for late 19th century brides. Art objects and decorative pieces were also in high demand with the American consumer. Victorian tastes required a lavish display of home furnishings, a style considered too "fussy" for modern day eyes.
Haviland china is perhaps the best known of the Limoges factories. In 1839 David Haviland operated a store in New York City where he sold imported and American made china. One of his customers brought in a French teacup she wanted to match. It was very fine, and he had never seen another one like it. He was so impressed, he traveled to France himself to find out where it was manufactured. His search led him to the Alluaud pottery in Limoges.
He arranged to sell this ware in his NY store in 1840, which was an immediate success. The original designs were very simple shapes with little decoration, except fine gold bands and finials, known as "Wedding Ring" china.
Haviland supplied his own molds and decorations, and trained artists to create designs that would appeal to the American market. After 16 years, he decided to open his own factory in France under the direction of his son Charles, who married the daughter of Francois Alluaud. Haviland acquired the Alluad factory, which had originally drawn him into the business in the first place!
This book was helpful in identifying the Limoges pieces in my museum's collection:
Next week we will take a look at the Staffordshire potteries.