March 08, 2011

Meet Jean-Jacque Pierre, an 18th century Sevres artist.

I always enjoy researching a piece of genuine Sèvres porcelain; it comes to life in a way that few other 18th century factories do, due to the extensive records kept at the factory, and the clues placed on the porcelain itself.

This superb plate with green ground has companions in the British Museum, the Quirinal Palace, Rome, and the Pitti Palace, Florence.

The mark is the crossed L's for Louis, with the date letter O for 1767, and an artist's mark - P'

This is the artist Jean-Jacques Pierre II, who happens to be one of the artists preserved in a group of sketches made from the life, preserved in the Sèvres archives.... Here he is!

Another clue is the inscribed initials in the body. These are the mark of the workman who made the piece, and a comprehensive list has been put together of the dates of pieces they worked on.
Here is the mark:

and here is the listing of the mark, referring to pieces made in 1770. Unfortunately, there are very few formers names recorded, compared to the artists, so we cannot name them.

So while there are a huge number of pieces of mock Sèvres out there, and pieces with later decoration, there is a way of using the clues above to verify the authenticity of a piece.
First, date it by the date letter. ('A' is the 1753 code, and only applies to a very specific group of styles made in such early years. It is also the most faked mark.) In this case, we have 1767 as the date.
Secondly, date the artist. He MUST be working at the works during the year the piece dates to! In this case, Pierre commenced work in 1763 and continued until 1798, so a 36 year career at Sèvres which includes 1767, and so reinforces the authenticity of this piece.
Thirdly, the workman's mark inscribed into the piece should be traceable, with hundreds recorded, and the records include the date range from year mark on the same piece. This date range should cover or come very clear to the date of the piece in question: in this case, 1774 in the recorded example is comfortably close to the 1767 date.
One final clue is well known to the fakers of all ages, and that is the 'dip hole' in the rim of the underside.

This is an artifact of the quality production at Sèvres: it is the only point touching in the kiln for glaze and colour firing, as a means of limiting any kiln flaws. It was observed on genuine pieces by the copy makers, who went to great lengths to place them in their own footrims- one example I have has 4 on one plate! However, the reason for the hole was perhaps unknown, and unused, and so will appear different in an original.
This reason was the high- tech firing method, which involved a 'tree' of metal arms in the kiln, with upturned spikes on their branches; this spike was the hanging point for the plate while firing. As a result, small flakes of metal oxides were often fused from the tip into the hole in the footrim, and examination under a glass should show a characteristic trace of this fascinating firing method. It was a difficult technique which was most probably beyond the abilities of the later fakers- or more probably, beyond their knowledge.

So with the positive answer to the above questions, we can conclude that this is a genuine Sèvres piece from 1767, painted by Pierre.

His painting was superb, his flowers and fruit comparable to the best factory artists.

This superb plate is now available at Moorabool Antique Galleries, as part of our stock.