11063 AN INTERESTING SET OF SIX PORCELAIN PALETTE PLATES Limoges, With Decoration Applied by the Keramisch Chemische Werke, Teplitz. Circa 1910. Measurements: Diameter: 9″ (23 cm).
Of porcelain. Each of five plates with graded, enumerated concentrically arranged color samples. The sixth plate inscribed “Keramisch Chemische Werke Teplitz.” The reverse marked A. Pillivuyt, Limoges; one plate marked to the reverse: Toutes les couleurs sont fusibles; four plates marked to the reverse with alphabetic key to the colors on the front of the plates, with corresponding chart as follows:
f. = fusible.
t. = tender.
d. – dur.
o. = p. bord.
x. = p. impression.
l. = p. lytographie
p.f. = p. fonds
Marked with date in Roman numerals MDCCCCX. Three very small repairs to edge of one plate.
This interesting set of six plates was made at the Pillivuyt manufactory at Foëcy-Limoges, but was specially decorated at the Keramische Chemische Werke of Teplitz circa 1910. The firm was founded in 1818 by Jean Louis Richard Pillivuyt, in Foëcy, an area in central France well suited to porcelain production due to the closely available natural resources of water, forests, and the recently-discovered kaolin clay deposits at Limoges. By 1884 Pillivuyt had established another factory in Mehun-sur-Yèvre, as well as shops in Paris and London, and the firm won various gold medals for its wares at the International Exhibitions in New York (1823) and Paris (1878 and 1889). It was a common practice for Limoges to send their plain white porcelain wares to outside painters for decoration, and the area of Teplitz (in the nothern region of what was formerly Bohemia and is today the Czech Republic) was home to numerous ceramic houses.
Sample plates of this type were made in workshops throughout Europe to act as palettes displaying the range of colors, patterns and gilding techniques employed by various firms. Eighteenth century palette pieces are extremely rare. The examples known to us were made in the late 1740s at Sèvres in the form of plates and cups and at Vincennes solely as cups. Although still rare, some nineteenth and twentieth century pieces are known. Figure 1 depicts a German sampler plate, circa 1830-50, from Müller & Hennig’s Porzellanfarben in Dresden, decorated with the various colors and floral patterns available from the firm. An example in the Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum displays tear-shaped color samples by Stelling’s Porcelænsfarver on a porcelain plate from the Royal Copenhagen Porcelain Manufactory in Denmark, circa 1930 (figure 2).
The principles of color theory, first explored by Renaissance polymaths Leon Battista Alberti and Leonardo da Vinci, were developed in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries beginning with Sir Isaac Newton’s experiments using prisms and light, illustrated in his 1704 publication Optics. In the early-nineteenth century, observations on color were published by German poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe in his Theory of Colours (1810), and by the French industrial chemist Michel Eugène Chevreul in The Law of Simultaneous Color Contrast (1839). As a product of these observations, different color wheels were developed to organize hues and illustrate the relationships between colors, both for scientific and artistic purposes. Figure 3 depicts “The Painter’s Compass” from Charles Hayter’s A new practical treatise on the three primitive colours (1826), and figure 4 illustrates three color wheels by Lénore Merimée, published in Charles-François Brisseau de Mirbel‘s Eléments de physiologie végétale et de botanique (1815). The consideration of hues and color organization of this type no doubt influenced the layout of the present set of palette plates.
As the technology in porcelain production evolved, so too did decorative capabilities. “Developments in machine and kiln construction…laid the foundations for the innovations in forms, glazes and colors…However, there were limits to the progress that could be made in the fields of colors and glazes if there were not corresponding improvements in the preparation of basic materials, in temperature regulation in the muffle kilns, and in the polishing machinery; the one side of production could not be improved without concomitant improvements on the other side.”1
The main purpose of color sample plates, like the present set, was to provide a guide for the painting workshops within these porcelain manufactories; because colors could appear quite different before and after firing, the plates “helped the painters anticipate how their compositions would finally turn out.”2 Each color field was assigned a number or code, which aided communication between the painters, workshop supervisors, and color laboratories. Manufactories were keen to invent colors not available to their competitors; instructions for their preparation were kept under strict secrecyFootnotes:
1. Wittwer, Samuel, Richard B. Cohen, and Sarah L. Galbraith. Refinement & Elegance: Early Nineteenth-Century Royal Porcelain from the Twinight Collection, New York. Munich: Hirmer, 2007.123.