DECORATION 1849-1992


As far as I know, this is the first book that has attempted to cover all the manufacturers who made pate-sur-pate Apart from Geoffrey Godden's pioneerme chapter on English pate-sur -pate in his Victorian Porcelain and the references in Paul Atterbury's and Maureen Batkin's The Dictionary of Minton, the subject has been only sketchily covered in occasional articles , often based on the writings of Marc Louis Solon, the most renowned of the pate-sur-pate aitists, so embarking on the research for the book involved setting off down a road that was largely unknown It has proved to be an extiaordmaiily attractive load, though a longer one than anticipated and with many surprises along the way One of Solon's favourite devices showed Cupids endlessly pouring liquid into a vessel with a broken bottom He called one such design Insatiable and it seems an image especially appropriate to the task of researching pate-sur-pate! There must be many more discoveries still to be made and I should be very grateful for more information about the pate-sur-pate productions of any of the manufacturers described in this book and about other, and to me unknown, makers of pate-sur-pate.
March 1992






2 THE PARIS AND SEVRES WORKSHOPS Eugene Rousseau and the Solon Atelier
The Albert Dammouse Atelier The Taxile Doat Atelier

3 FRENCH REGIONAL POTTERIES The Limoges Potteries The Berry Potteries C. H. Pillivuyt
Hache Pepin-Lehalleur, Hache Jullien The Prosper Jouneau Atelier


5 OTHER ENGLISH POTTERIES AND ARTISTS Wedgwood Moore Brothers Brownfield George Jones
Brown-Westhead, Moore The Lawrence Birks Potteries Royal Worcester Grainger Locke
Doulton Lambeth Doulton Burslem
F. A. Rhead and Commercial Pate-sur-pate W. Wills and J. Cope


One of the few artistic and beautiful styles of pottery decoration of the nineteenth century ' This was how William Burton, a leading turn-of-the-century potter, distinguished writer on ceramics, and manager of Pilkington's Lancastrian Pottery described pate-sur-pate in the 1910 edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannia '
Pate-sur-pate -fate was an elaboiate and expensive method of decorating porcelain in which a translucent cameo-like image was built up by the application of many thin coats of porcellaneous slip The technique was developed at the end of the 1840s at the French national manufactory of Sevres and greatly refined over the next ten years, notably by Leopold Jules Gely and by the man who would later be internationally celebrated as the greatest of all pate-sur-pate artists. Marc Louis Solon, master of a method he evolved over half a century
It was Solon who introduced the technique to England when in 1870 at the time of the Franco Prussian war he left Sevres to join Minton in Stoke-on-Trent Other manufacturers in France, followed by those in Britain, Germany, Russia, Italy, and Hungary, soon recognized the decorative potential of. pate-sur-pate, which reached its fullest and most widespread realization in the last quarter of the nineteenth century Individual pieces and displays drew interested comment whenever they were included in international exhibitions In the USA, museums and patrons acquired examples of the admired decoration from exhibitors at Vienna and Philadelphia in the 1870s the method itself was brought over by English artists in the 1890s and later the eminent French ceramist Taxile Doat made and taught pate-sur-pate for four years at University City, Missouri, but production of the ware in the USA was not extensive The twentieth century saw a gradual decline in the manufacture of pate-sur-pate, mainly on grounds of cost Sevres had probably ceased to make it by 1930 Minton maintained output, although much reduced, until the outbreak of World War II, when their one re~ maming pate-sur-pate artist, Richard Bradbury, left for military service In the post-1945 period two attempts have been made to revive the process at Minton using Solon's accounts as a guide Failing initially in their efforts to get successive coats of slip to adhere, the firm succeeded in 1991 in producing two handsome vases to commemorate the 200th anniversary of Minton's foundation in 1793. Historical precedents for ornamental relief decoration were of two kinds antique stone cameos and cameo glass in which a raised and carved upper layer was set in relief against, and often revealed, a different coloured ground, an effect imitated in the late eighteenth century both by Josiah Wedgwood on his jasper-ware medallions and plaques, and by Sevies in biscuit porcelain, and the white painted decoration on Limoges enamels which again relied for its effect on the contrast between design and coloured ground However Solon in an article written for The Studio in 1894, was at pains to distinguish the quality of pate-sur-pate pate from other methods of decoration with which it was
The Wedgwood Jasper ware, for instance, although offering likewise white reliefs on coloured grounds, is as the reader is no doubt well aware, produced by mechanical means Each part of a given model is pressed separately in a plaster mould and sub sequently stuck on the even surface of the piece to be decorated It may be multiplied to an unlimited number of copies, a careful workman is equal to the task A Pate sur Pate bas relief, on the contrary, is always an original, a repetition of it could only be made by the artist who has executed the first one In the Limoges enamels sometimes mentioned as presenting some analogy, the difference is still better marked, for in this case effect is not obtained by gradation of reliefs, but rather of lights and shades The dark tint of the ground is taken advantage of to form the shadows, and the white enamel comes into play, just as white chalk intervenes in an effective drawing on tinted paper.
The immediate inspiration ior pate sur-pate was in fact provided by none of these sources The technique developed at Sevres followed speculation about the in method used to produce the raised white flowers on a Chinese celadon vase the ceramics museum there These flowers were wrongly thought to be translu- cent, and trials were carried out to produce a similar decoiation . Success was achieved in 1849 when a sucrier decorated with raised insects ornaments emerged from the kiln with the celadon ground colour clearly visible through the decoration,
The subsequent application of the technique focused on what Solon called
"The successful management of those transparencies". Great care and calculation was required, as William Burton's account, relying on Solon's own method, shows: As practised by M. Solon the pate-sur-pate decoration took the form of paintings of figure subjects or dainty ornamental designs in white slip on a coloured porcelain ground of green, blue, dark-grey or. black. On such grounds a thin wash of the slip gives a translucent film, so that by washing on or building up successive layers of slip sharpening the drawing with modelling tools, or softening or rounding the figure with a wet brush, the most delicate gradations of tint can be obtained, from the brilliant white of the slip to the full depth of the ground. This method was rapidly adopted by all the principal European factories, though nowhere was it carried to such perfection as at Sevres and at Milton's. M. Taxile Doat has executed extraordinary pieces in this style of decoration at Sevres, and in the British Museum there is a large vase of his, presented by the French government at the beginning of the present century Sevres made no secret of the technique and Victor de Luynes, a professor at the Pans Conservatoire des Arts et Metiers, included an account of it (reproduced in Appendix A) in his report on the 1872 London International Exhibition' Solon also described his working methods, first in a general article, already quoted, in The Studio, later reissued by Minton as a booklet, and again in the Art Journal in 1901 A concise account of the process, again written by Solon, appealed in 1896 as a 'special contribution' in Rough Notes on Pottery, a US publication Amongst the various styles of decoration which the artist may borrow from the potter, the process of Pate-sur-pate stands alone with regard to the peculiar effects that may be obtained from it Wedgwood's jasper reliefs are the nearest approach, but the figures and the ornamentation with which jasper ware is adorned, are all pressed in moulds, and simply stuck on the surface The result is a work, which how ever skilful in treatment, does not go beyond the refined productions of a superior handicraft It is not so with the Pate-sur-pate process A plain piece, made of a porcelain body, coloured with metallic oxides, and still in the clay State (that is to say, before it has" been submitted to any firing) is taken in hand by the artist Freely he sketches upon a subject of ( his own imagination The white porcelain clay, diluted with water to consistency of batter, or, as it is called, the 'slip', serves to produce the reliefs. By means of a painting brush the slip is laid upon the piece by successive coats care being taken to wait until the coat is perfectly dry before applying another. Failing that precaution the raised work might crack and peel off Thus, by degrees, the reliefs attain respective thicknesses They are then worked into with sharp iron tools which scrape and smooth the inequalities of the rough sketch, incise the details and delineate the outlines, whilst the brush loaded with thicker slip, brightens the whole work with sharply raised touches When the piece is considered as completed and reach for the oven, it is, from beginning to end, the original production of the artist's hand.
But it is only through the action of the fire, which causes the incipient state of vitrification of the mass, that the translucency of certain parts will become apparent when at work the artist has no means of ascertaining the degree of transparency that the firing will develop, he can only depend on his experience and judgement All ends often in disappointment, for after the piece has passed through the oven, to retrieve any mistake, or to amend any accident has become an impossibility One may rest satisfied if the fruit of a long labor does not come from the firing split into fragments, disfigured by unseemly blisters, in short, an altogether worthless wreck Decoration in colored clays are applied in the same manner The various colors are obtained by mixing with the porcelain body, given quantities of oxide of cobalt, chromium, iron, uranium, titanium, and other metalloids These mixtures have to be artfully compounded in such a way that the contraction they undergo in the firing shall be equal in all cases.
In his Cantor Lecture delivered to the Society of Arts in January 1881, the cera-mist Professor A H Church has left an eye-witness impression of Solon 's working method, which corroborated Solon's own technical account of his procedure Church remarked 'It is marvellous to see Mr Solon, as I have been privileged to see him, without outlines or previous sketching, laying the wet por-cellanous slip with a brush on the coloured ware in the green state, and then carving the powdery substance into forms of exquisite truth and tenderness' Although these accounts suggest that the clay was not submitted to any firing before work on it started, this was not strictly correct To make the material easier to handle, it might be passed through a low-fired hardening kiln The point was made by Solon himself in The Studio and by Frederick Alfred Rhead, who in 1513 contributed three articles on the subject to the American magazine Keramic Studio, summarized in Appendix B Rhead had been a pupil of Solon at Minton, and retained a lifelong enthusiasm for pate-sur-pate Neither Solon nor Rhead stated how many coats of slip were necessary to build up the required re lief, relying, no doubt, on experience and artistic judgement The French ceramist Theodore Deck, writing during his time as administrator of the Sevres manufactory, was more specific, observing that thirty or forty coats were usual, and that for this reason the process was far too time-consuming
The reward for the artist of this lengthy procedure lay in the charming effects that could be achieved by manipulating thicker and thinner reliefs The translucent quality of the medium could be used to virtuoso effect in suggesting distance and in the realistic rendering of clouds, water, and diaphanous drapery which revealed the form of the human body, particularly the female figure Transparent effects of this kind made great demands on the skill of the pate-sur-pate artist, as Solon made clear, and they were the feature most admired by contemporaries, among them Leon Arnoux, Minton's art director The subtleties of the process could be further enhanced by the use of delicate tones, one of which reminded the an critic Philippe Burty of a 'nuage de creme verse dans une tasse de the' Pate-sur-pate was the description originally given to the technique at the Sevres manufactory, but variations on this terminology were soon introduced These included pate d'application, pate rapportee, and sometimes pate blanche or pate coloree The last term referred to decorations with coloured paste, which were applied, as Solon explained in his contribution to Rough
Notes on Pottery, the same way In the 1860s Arnoux described the technique as pate-sur-pate in his exhibition reports and was probably the first person to introduce, the term to England
Barbotine was another term used in France, particularly in Limoges Derived from the Old French bourbe, meaning mud or clay, barbotine can be translated as 'slip' or liquid clay, and was used by de Luynes in this sense in his description of pate-sur-pate quoted in Appendix A Confusingly, it was also the name given to a decorative process unconnected with pate-sur-pate, referring to a method of painting with slip on earthenware developed in the early 1870s by Ernest Cha plet Solon included a description of this successful, but short lived, process in his account of the revival of French faience 'Barbotine painting' 'consisted in mixing fusible colours with clay and opaque substances, so that they could be employed in any degree of thickness, the sharpness of the artist's touch was not impaired by the firing, when completed, the work had the appearance of an oil painting' In 1873 the Limoges firm of Haviland opened an atelier in Pans Auteuil which made work of this type, and other manufacturers were quick to follow suit The popularity of barbotme painting lasted for only a few years an the Auteuil studio closed in 1882 In Limoges, presumably because of the Havi-land connection, the name barbotme seems to have been used indiscriminately to describe either Auteil-type barbotine or pate-sur -pate When the term barboine appears in Limoges exhibition catalogues, the imprecise terminology means that it is not always possible to deteimme which product is being refferd to. This Problem is discussed again in the section in chapter 3 on the Limoges; Potteries To add to the confusion, barbotine is used today as a generic term for majolica.
In Britain the technique has commonly been described as pate-sur-pate since its introduction The literal translation, paste-on-paste, sometimes used in English and American publications, is both misleading and inappropriate as it can apply equally to other techniques, among them slip-trailing and tube-lining From March 1878 until the end of September 1883 the Minton records refer to 'M S P', the 'Minton Solon Process', rather than pate-sur-pate Although no obvious change can be detected in the appearance of the work, the initials may have been adopted as a patent to differentiate Solon's procedure from that of several other English manufacturers who were making pate-sur-pate at die time Elsewhere in Europe, pate-sur-pate was the accepted name for the process, used tor example at Meissen and KPM Berlin, though German journalists sometimes referred to Pinselmalerei The firm of Villeroy & Boch is an exception and made at its Mettlach works a range named Phanolith, in which plaques and other subjects were decorated in a manner similar to pate-sur-pate In the USA, too, pate-sur-pate was the term in general use. During the second half of the nineteenth century and the first quarter of the twentieth, pate-sur-pate, paiticularly the work of Solon and Taxile Doat, was much admired.
The designer Lewis F Day, for instance, thought the tianspa-rency and modelling of Solon's work 'one of the most beautiful of modern times', while William Burton placed it in 'the post of honour among the artistic productions of the nineteenth century' Museum curators, too, were equally enthusiastic Edwin Atlee Barber, the leading American ceramic historian at the time and curator of the Pennsylvania Museum in Philadelphia, wrote of 'this beautiful art', while Bernard Rackham, keeper of ceramics at the Victoria & Albert Museum, regarded Solon's work 'as amongst the best things of the ceramic art of the 19th century' The British Museum's keeper of ceramics, R L Hodson, observed 'Mr Solon made no secret of his art Every stage of his procedure was clearly explained One could borrow everything from him -everything except the one thing most needful - the touch of his peculiar genius in the ceramic history of the nineteenth century few names would stand out in higher relief than that of the master of pate-sur-pate After World War I pate-sur-pate, like most nineteenth-century fashions, declined in populanty 'Writing in 1940 in A Potter's Book, Bernard Leach observed sourly: 'It would be difficult to find a better example of what should not be done with clay' Today Solon's elegant works, and those of the many other talented artists who practised the technique, are once more appreciated for the skill and beauty of their achievement.