A colourful Sévres coffee can & saucer has a fascinating tale to tell, and is an as-yet unpublished clue that helps to identify a under-appreciated Sévres artist.
The cup & saucer - a ‘gobelet litron’, third size - is a stunning yellow colour, with a finely painted blue continuous landscape in blue that seems to float on the thick yellow ground. There is a border of dainty colourful scrolling foliage, and in the centre of the saucer, a pinwheel device almost like a
target. It’s fully marked to both pieces, and being unusual - and knowing the way Sévres was so often copied and outside-decorated - a full examination was required to ensure it was authentic. This brought to light some problems, and shows once again the ever-changing field of ceramics research: never believe absolutely what you read in print!
A quick look in the authoritative book on the subject, 'SÉVRES PORCELAIN' by Eriksen 1987 (p153 #46) apparently attributes the mark ‘ f B ‘ to a certain Francois-Marie Barrat, active 1769-91, a date that conforms nicely with the date 1788. However, the next entry is more accurate for the mark: #47, a ‘f B’ combination. Eriksen attributes this to Francois-Marie Barrat as an alternate mark, but states ‘….the compilers have never seen mark 47 which may be an incorrect rendering of Barrat’s usual mark.’
I can now demonstrate that this is wrong; there is another artist with a surname starting with B, Bouillat, who came to Sevres in 1758, and remained active there until 1810, a remarkable example of the dedication workmen felt to the factory. His mark was a capital Y, so he is not the artist in question; rather, his marriage in 1768 to a female artist at the factory, Genevieve-Louis Thevenet - (herself the daughter of a Factory artist Louis-Jean Thevenet!) resulted in a son and a daughter, who both became painters at Sévres. The son, or fil in French, began work at the factory in 1786, and left to join the army in 1793. During that time this mark appears on a series of pieces, including this cup & saucer. The lower-case f is obviously a stand-in for fil , and the B for Bouillat. The mark ‘fB’ should now be identified as Francois Bouillat, painter of flowers and landscapes.
On this basis, his work can be found on a service in the Queens Collection, and also a cup & saucer in the Hermitage, Russia. This example is particularly interesting as it has the same fluted colourful pinwheel device to the centre as our cup & saucer. It also bears small panels of the same vivid yellow, overpainted with brown scrolling foliage & urns, and is dated 1789.
There is a second painters mark, set in next to the footrim, consisting of ‘…’ . This mark is that of Jean-Baptiste Tandart, a prolific painter from 1754-1803. He is recorded as a ‘painter of flowers’ , which along with the secondary position of the mark indicates he was responsible for the garlands of flowers in the border.
The landscape decoration is known as ‘paysage circulaire’ (circular landscape) and in this form is extremely rare on Sévres, with the scene in blue painted directly on a brilliant yellow ground. This was technically a feat in itself, and perhaps was not used much due to the issues we see on this cup & saucer: the blue tends to bead into clumps, and the thick yellow enamels shift in the heat of the enamel firings. While the yellow pigment had been a very early Sévres development, the tone seen here appears in the early 1780’s and is not repeated after the Revolution. There are a handful of specimens scattered around the globe in various collections, making this a most rare & desirable item.
Moorabool is pleased to offer this rarity as a part of our 2015 Exhibition & Catalogue, opening in Geelong & online on March 28th.