Worms and Cobblestones (vermiculé, caillouté)

Two evocative design patterns found at Sèvres are the “cobblestone” and “wormhole” patterns:

Cobblestone Gilding (caillouté)


Two Plates with Blue-Cobblestone Décor (assiettes lapis-caillouté décor), 1769, slide 40

The “cobblestone” décor, known as caillouté, is a gilding pattern of unevenly dispersed oval shapes that evoke cobblestones. A good example of caillouté in the Fritzsche Collection is on “Two Plates with Blue-Cobblestone Décor” (assiettes lapis-caillouté décor, 1769, slide 40). This pattern was often applied over a particular dark blue ground color known as bleu lapis (lapis-lazuli blue), and thus was often known as lapis caillouté. Roth and Le Corbeiller trace its origins to Chinese porcelain patterns “where similar gold pebbling can be found sparingly applied on borders” (2000, 117–18). The cobblestone pattern was sometimes combined with wormhole gilding, discussed below. For a detailed discussion of the color known as bleu lapis (lapis-lazuli blue), see this essay: Lapis Blue.

Wormhole Gilding (vermiculé)


Duplessis Tray (plateau Duplessis), ca. 1765, slide 44

This intriguingly named décor derives from the French word “vermicule,” which means “worm.” When used in reference to porcelain, vermiculé denotes undulating patterns of gilding, suggesting that the decoration is visually similar to the tunnels created by worms. In English the term is sometimes translated as “vermiculated gilding.” A good example of this décor in the Fritzsche collection is the “Duplessis Tray” (plateau Duplessis, ca. 1765, slide 44). Roth and Le Corbeiller note that this technique evokes a “pattern found on rusticated masonry” (2000, 382). In many ways this décor is similar to the cobblestone décor discussed above. It too was usually applied over a ground color of bleu lapis.

References: Roth and Le Corbeiller 2000, 117–18, 382; Savill 1988, 3:1173.