History of Porcelain - reprinted from www.maisonporcelaine.com/us/history/
Porcelain, using kaolin was discovered in China during the T'ang dynasty (AD 618-907). In the late 13th century while traveling through China, Marco Polo discovered a translucent ceramic unknown to the West. He "baptized" this iridescent colored object "porcellana" (It orig., type of cowry shell, likened to the vulva of a sow which was prized by the Romans). Porcelain became highly valued by the Emperors and heads of state in all of Europe. After 1498, with the opening of the route to India by Vasco de Gama the porcelain rush was on. A regular trade was now established between the Orient and Europe. In the centuries following, Portugal, Holland, England and France all fought for the right to import the marvelous Chinese porcelain known as "Porcelaine de la Compagnie des Indes".
During the Renaissance, alchemist were still baffled by the composition of the Chinese porcelain. Out of all the attempts, the Medicis of Florence and French princes of Saint Cloud, Chantilly and Vincennes were by far the closest to discover the formula. This gave birth the "soft-paste" which didn't have the durability and resonance of Chinese porcelain. It lacked the base element of kaolin, still unknown in Europe. The secret of true "hard" porcelain was not discovered until 1707 in Saxony, by an alchemist Böttger, who discovered a deposit of kaolin.
The first known "hard paste" porcelain factory outside of China was founded at Meissen. The formula was preciously guarded until 1767 when "hard paste" porcelain was produced at "La Manufacture de Sèvres" in Limousin, France. Around 1765, in Saint Yrieix la Perche en Haute Vienne, a surgeon's wife used the white substance as soap to do her washing. Her husband, impressed with the results, wanted to commercialize her discovery. Aid was sought from Villaris, a pharmacist from Bordeaux, who identifies the kaolin and sells his discovery to the Manufacture of Sèvres. After 1768, kaolin is regularly mined from Saint Yrieix la Perche, supplying the Parisian manufacturers. In 1771, under the impetus direction of Turgot, the production of porcelain begins in the Limousin region known as "La Manufacture Grellet frères-Massié-Fournérat". Thus ending the four century quest of the producing Limoges porcelain.
Back to About the Artist