Dotted Grounds (pointillé, œil de perdrix)
Many porcelain ground colors were punctuated with elaborate dotted patterns, such as those termed pointillé or œil de perdrix.
Dotted Ground Pattern (pointillé)
The word pointillé in French simply means “dotted,” but in the context of Sèvres porcelain the term has taken on the more specific connotation of ground-colors with particular dotted patterns.
Usually placed against a pale ground color, the pointillé ground consists of a repeated pattern of small white circles, outlined with colored dots that are often darker than the overall ground. It was often applied after the reserves had been painted, and was primarily found on pieces from the late 1760s through the early 1780s.
Traditionally, the pointillé ground has often been termed fond Taillandier (Taillandier ground) but some scholars argue that this is not the case: “The pointillé ground pattern … is often confused with another ground pattern, fond Taillandier, which consists of an overglaze ground with small circles of gilded dots, punctuated with white circles containing colored dots and edged with gilding. This confusion is not limited to later scholarship, but also occurred during the eighteenth century at the Sèvres factory” (Roth and Le Corbeiller 2000, 209). “The documents … confuse the issue by describing pointillé grounds applied by Vincent or Geneviève as fond Taillandier” (Savill 1988, 3:1175).
The pointillé pattern is well exemplified by the “Covered Sugar Bowl on Boat-Shaped Tray” (sucrier couvert ovale adhérent à un plateau forme bateau, n.d., slide 41). On this piece, the pale sky-blue ground is punctuated by small white circles, which are bordered by darker, smaller blue dots. The same pattern is visible on “Two Wine Bottle Coolers” (seaux à bouteille, n.d., slides 42a–b).
Roth and Le Corbeiller suggest that the pattern of white circles on this type of décor was created by a resist method: “This involved … placing dots of wax … where the white circles were to be and then powdering the rest with the turquoise pigment” (2000, 209).
Partridge Eye Pattern (œil de perdrix)
Like pointillé, the partridge-eye pattern (œil de perdrix) consists of dotted circles and could be considered a variation of the basic pointillé ground. The principal difference is the prominent gilded dot in the center of each circle, which gives it the striking eye-like form.
A lovely example of this in the Fritzsche Collection is the “Plate with Partridge Eye Décor and Buffon Bird” (assiette, œil de perdrix, oiseau Buffon, 1793, slide 59). The green ground color of the rim is ornamented with the œil de perdrix. Each white circle, framed by an inner circle of colored dots, encloses a larger gilded dot at its center. The well of the plate is painted with a bird inspired by The Natural History of Birds (Histoire naturelle des oiseaux, 1770–86) by Buffon (Georges-Louis Leclerc, comte de Buffon).
Both the bird plate and sugar bowl above were painted by Charles-Nicolas Dodin (1734–1803; active 1754–1802); read more details about Dodin on this page of the exhibit.
The honeycomb pattern on the “Pitcher” (broc ordinaire, n.d., slide 30) appears to be a variation of œil de perdrix, although the effect is quite different due to the white ground. The repeated, prominent gilded dots nonetheless endow it with the same striking partridge-eye effect.
This type of pitcher is known as a broc ordinaire, which refers to a pitcher without a cover, in contrast to the covered style known as broc couvert (Eriksen and De Bellaigue 1987, 232). It was painted by André-Vincent Vielliard (1717–90; active 1752–90; known as Vielliard père or Vielliard aîné [the elder]). Read more about Vielliard on this page of the exhibit.
Yet another approach to the dotted-ground trend is “Two Plates in Fallot Blue with Inlaid Flowers” (assiettes en bleu Fallot, fleurs incrustées, 1771, slide 45). This exemplifies the famous ground color known as bleu Fallot (Fallot blue), which was often adorned with dotted patterns, and is discussed in more detail on this page of the exhibit.
References: Roth and Le Corbeiller 2000, 209, 382; Savill 1988, 3:1173, 1176.