History & Map of the Porcelain Factories

Factory Locations:

Vincennes Porcelain Manufactory (Manufacture de Vincennes, 1740–56). Located East of Paris, in the Château de Vincennes, Avenue Carnot, 75012 Vincennes, France.

Sèvres Porcelain Manufactory (Manufacture de Sèvres, 1756 to present). Located West of Paris, at 2 Place de la Manufacture, 92310 Sèvres, France.

A Very Brief History of the Vincennes-Sèvres Porcelain Factories 

The origin of the Vincennes Porcelain Manufactory reads like a cloak and dagger story. As it is often told, Claude-Humbert Gérin stole the secret recipe of porcelain paste from the Chantilly Porcelain Factory, and began producing it in the “Devil’s Tower” (Tour du Diable) of the Château de Vincennes, to the east of Paris, in 1740. His accomplices in this stealthy project were the Dubois brothers, Robert and Gilles, former artisans from Chantilly. They were later joined by another escapee from Chantilly, François Gravant, also a thief of secret recipes, who later claimed to be the inventor of French porcelain.

Two Bouillard Cups (<em>gobelets Bouillard</em>)

Two Bouillard Cups (gobelets Bouillard), 1753, slide 9b

Adding to the mystery is the fact that the stolen Chantilly recipes were not the same formula as the “white body characteristic of Vincennes” in its earliest years (Dawson 1994, 64). It was the Vincennes workshop alone that first manufactured “a clay of perfect whiteness and a porcelain with a fine translucent glaze” for which the factory became famous (Arend 1998, 20).

Teapot in the Queen's Style (<em>théière à la Reine</em>)

Teapot in the Queen’s Style (théière à la Reine), ca. 1753, slide 13.

In any event, by 1741, the director of the French East India Trade Company, Jean-Louis Orry de Fulvy, had assumed control of operations, and was furnishing the stealthy workers with necessary supplies. By 1745 King Louis XV had granted them the official right to produce porcelain “in the Saxon manner” (Dawson 1994, 64); their factory was known first as the Charles Adam Company, and later as the Eloy Brichard Company. After Orry de Fulvy died in 1751, Jacques-René Boileau de Picardie became factory director, ushering in the era of the great works of Vincennes and Sévres porcelain, guided particularly by the artistic director, Jean-Jacques Bachelier, and the designer and goldsmith, Jean-Claude Duplessis. Under Bachelier’s leadership, the characteristic Vincennes style took shape: an object with bright overall ground color, a white reserve lavishly framed with gilding, and a polychrome painting at its center (Arend 1998, 21), well illustrated here by the Teapot in the Queen’s Style. As for the “secret recipe” for Vincennes porcelain, this was placed in the hands of Jean Hellot, the director of the Academy of Sciences, and he finally “recorded [it] for posterity” (Roth and Le Corbeiller 2000, 87).

By 1753, the production was known as the Manufacture du roi (King’s Manufactory), but was plagued by financial troubles. To the rescue came Madame de Pompadour (Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson, Marquise de Pompadour, 1721–64), the mistress of King Louis XV, and a great connoisseur of porcelain. She influenced the decision in 1756 to move factory operations to Sèvres, closer to her own estate at Bellevue. Even so, this was not a successful money-making venture until King Louis XV was persuaded to bankroll the entire affair. By 1759 he agreed to pay all the debts and buy the company outright.

References: Arend 1998, 20–24; Dawson 1994, 64–66, 90–91; Roth and Le Corbeiller 2000, 86–87; Savill 1988, 3:986.

Factory History & Map