As you might have guessed, old things fascinate me. I’m fascinated that some of the more fragile things have managed to survive so many years intact, some in unused or nearly unused condition.
But worn pieces can be even more interesting. Don’t you wonder where an old doohickey has been through all these years? What events has it witnessed – world events, family events … the newsprint paper it was wrapped in as it yellowed after someone put it away in favor of a newer or better replacement piece?
This week, I’ve been working with some “old Paris porcelain” – only when I started, I thought I had old Haviland Limoges. I’m pretty fussy with trying to identify and describe the antiques I offer for sale, so there’s always research involved and it usually takes me over hill and dale on the trip through the past. If you’d like to come along, keep reading!
These particular porcelain pieces are parts of different coffee or tea services. Only 2 are matched. All are white with gold (gilded) trim and decoration and the lidded pieces have rather distinctive finials which is why I started looking for information on old Haviland Limoges. (Limoges is defined as being porcelain produced in many different factories in Limoges, France from the mid-19th century up to today.) As always, I check my numerous reference books and all over the internet and I couldn’t convince myself that this was Haviland – even unmarked Haviland, leaving me with “Old Paris Porcelain”. And there’s nothing wrong with that! There are many collectors of “Old Paris Porcelain” that actually don’t want Haviland!
With all these factories producing white porcelain in Limoges, they tended to have many similar characteristics. All, including Haviland, started with a white “blank”, which means that the item comes out of the mold, well … blank. The blanks were then gilded or painted with different types of designs and colors.
Haviland pieces are generally marked on the bottom with one of several backmarks, depending on when and where they were made, although there are unmarked pieces. The pieces I’ve been working with this week only have odd markings. One looks like a “Z” was incised (carved) into the bottom before the glaze was applied. Another has an impressed A. mark and there are others. All these pieces are white with gold trim and decoration. Some are near pristine and others show a little wear, mostly on the handles where one can imagine Victorian hostesses once held them while serving their visitors.There is one piece that surely has a story – from the day when it was first decorated with the gold. The gold band around the top is very sloppily applied! Where some collectors might be put off by the slightly sloppy band, I find it an endearing part of this item’s history. Had the decorator been working such long hours that their work wasn’t quite as perfect as usual? Maybe the decorator was new and hadn’t acquired the skill other, seasoned, decorators had. Or was the decorator just cranky? Wouldn’t you love to know?