Monday, 19 July 2010

Trying out new colors: Nuanciers

If you stumbled upon these three plates in a flea market, would you know what they were?? A couple of years ago, I was lucky to acquire these as well as others. It was clear that they were color trials for a pottery manufacture, but the backs were unglazed and unsigned. However, I recognized the colors and the 3-dot motif on some of the swatches as being from the Faïencerie d'Art Breton Savigny babies, so I took the whole stack and off I went to ask questions. It was fun to see the production staff discuss the different plates and colors.

Indeed, these three plates were the Savigny baby color trials (it's nice to be right!). Under each color is the mixing formula for that color - my untrained eye does not see any difference between some of the variations, but I imagine that the painters saw all sorts of details that I'm missing.

These two plates show different blue and green tones, and the blue plate is dated 1997 - as collectors know, it's always nice to be able to date a piece!! Variations of brush strokes are tried out, to see what the color does as it is applied differently, an interesting way for us to see what design tools the painter uses.

This pair of plates is technically very interesting. The color was intended as a background color for a decor that would be exported to the US. The plate on the left has two bands that say N°1 on them and three that say N°2. On the back of the plate, it says "N°1 pose difficile" (N°1 was difficult to paint on the biscuit) and "N°2 [pose] délicate" (N°2 wasn't too easy, either). The plate on the right says N°5 on the yellow bands (we can suppose that there was a plate with numbers 3 and 4, but I don't have that one), and on the back, it says "N°5 pose correcte" (N°5 was the version that was a correct consistency for painting the decor). 


These two plates came from the HB-Henriot manufacture - their trial plates often end up in their tent sale, one of my favorite buying events of the year. The one on the left has sponging, stripes, à la touche motifs, and a filled space; on the back, it has color and decor references and says Nicot - was it a trial for the colors for one of the Nicot statues?? The plate on the right simply shows four different shades of blue; it says "B. ROY" on the back - "bleu roy" is royal blue. These two plates are glazed on the back as well as the front, so they can be used! 

These two pieces are also from HB-Henriot. The small plate was a color trial for a new decor by Mik Jegou - the brick/coral background was a new color, and this plate appears to have been created to show how other colors fired on it. The green is from the decor Jardin d'Eté, and the blue is a new blue: "Bleu Mik" - Mik's blue. This plate is a complete composition in its own right, with the placed border as well as the central motifs.
On the right, the tile was a trial piece for a matte gold color; I bought this one at the last December tent sale. Because the motifs chosen were the fleur de lys and the ermine tails (outlines and fill-ins - no brush stroke motifs), one could suppose that there might be a new decor in the offing??


Given my interest in the technical aspects of faience production, of course I was quite taken with the above plates, which were an auction offering this month. Both came from the collection of a curator of the museum in Saint Malo (northern coast of Brittany). Both are color trials from the Porquier-Beau manufacture in the 1890s. The one with the divided decor is the more valuable one - it is dated, and the design of the little figures on the right can be attributed to Alfred Beau himself - and it sold for 1300 euros at the auction. But I personally prefer the more simple one because I like flowers and I like the somewhat rustic aspect of the overall decor (I can fantasize that I might have been able to produce something that looked like that!); it sold for 350 euros.


  1. Judy, what an interesting find. Considering what the plates at auction brought, you should hold on to these. :-)
    Thanks for sharing this interesting information. It's fun to see these. ~ Sarah

  2. HI Judy, As you know, I am fascinated by these plates too, though I do not yet have one. Yours are really special, and being able to learn about who made them and where they were made is great. Really fascinating! Thanks, great as always!