Thursday, April 23, 2009

Gold Standard: Royal Limoges

Oasis, Royal Limoges
All place settings are not created equal. And it matters that you have something glorious on the table, not only for your guests, but for your senses to be thrilled at the table, for your family to enjoy even if it is limited to Sundays and holidays. Many of the greats began millions of years ago only they looked more like this...

than this.

Beleme, Royal Limoges

This is kaolinite or kaolin, a mineral clay substance found on several continents but where porcelain is concerned, notably in China originally and later discovered in France, right there outside Limoges.

It is unfortunate so many bridal registries avoid porcelain because it is not dishwasher safe and perceived as too high-maintenance, too formal, or too pretentious. My kitchen dishes are from Williams-Sonoma and are very easy to manage but in the dining room, I use porcelain or bone: I am willing to do a little extra work to eat from a work of art.

If one considers a porcelain such as Limoges (which denotes the city of orgin, and not a process, quality, or artistry specific to the porcelain), a host or hostess might be more appreciative of the articles and willing to care gently for them.

In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries porcelains from China enjoyed tremendous popularity in Europe. An enterprising French business manager for the Crown was charged with finding a new industry for the area around Limoges and discovered the earth there held huge deposits of kaolinite which was the chief ingredient in the porcelain Europe was readily consuming from China at the time. The first mines, factories, and patterns belonged strictly to the Crown and were employed only to create porcelain for French royalty. Kaolin yields a white product and another cottage industry was born to hand paint the porcelain products of Limoges. This arrangement thrived for Limoges until the excesses of royalty were ended by revolution.

Paradis Vegetal, Royal Limoges

Ever the pragmatists however, the porcelain industry of Limoges reached out to recreate itself with David Haviland (of Haviland Limoges) as the foremost salesman of the reinvention of Limoges as the place settings of cultured Americans. Limoges rode this new train until approximately 1930 when the Great Depression caused another difficult period in Limoges manufacturing history.

Gold Lion, Royal Limoges

Though the Depression and the advent of very casual dining has created an upscale, artistic niche for Limoges porcelin in the eighty years since, many tasteful hosts continue to demand French porcelain for their tables. The Hostess is counted among these table-setters.

Boudior, Royal Limoges

You have been viewing the ever-exquisite patterns of Royal Limoges, SA., Limoges, France, the oldest French porcelain manufacturer and in the Hostess' humble estimation, a company whose patterns are still very much fit for kings.

Available here.

1 comment:

An Aesthete's Lament said...

We have old china, rather plain, white French porcelain plates with a handsome gold band. None match perfectly but they work together quite well. It dresses up a table quite beautifully. And one can mix other patterns with it, as long as the whites match.