Litron Cup (Gobelet Litron)
The gobelet litron (litron cup) was the most common form of teacup produced at the Sèvres factory, first listed in the factory inventories in 1752, and is still in production today. In the Fritzsche Collection, examples of this can be seen in Slides 29 (ca. 1764), 32 (1767–68), 51a–b (1778), 55a–b (n.d.), and 58a–c (1784).
Characterized by a distinctive, straight-sided, cylindrical shape, the gobelet litron had a wide variety of handles, in “at least seven different styles…, ranging from a simple scroll to ear-shaped scroll, from a question-mark to a dolphin” (Roth and Le Corbeiller 2000, 201).
Its name was derived from the “litron,” a traditional wooden measuring cup that was used to measure salt, grain, flour, and peas. In 1670, a litron typically measured 9.4 cm high with a diameter of 10.3 cm, which is slightly larger than the cup of this name produced at the Sèvres factory. The Sèvres gobelet litron retained the cylindrical form of the litron measuring cup, but not its exact proportions (Savill 1988, 2:501).
In fact, the gobelet litron had both a practical and decorative purpose. These cups were “among the earliest ‘useful wares’ produced at the manufactory” but were also “intended to serve as eye-catching knick-knacks for display” (RCT 5658).
The gobelet litron is often accompanied by a deep, steep-sided saucer.
Arend suggests that one reason for the depth and large size of certain Sèvres saucers was that people often poured tea from the cup into the saucer to cool it off: “I poured it little by little from the cup into the saucer…like everyone else” (Comme tout le monde: … je le versai par petites parties de ma tasse dans ma soucoupe; Abbé Cosson, cited in Arend 1998, 68, 101n14).
References: Savill 1988, 2:501; Roth and Le Corbeiller 2000, 201; RCT 5658; Arend 1998, 68, 101n14.