Monday, August 13, 2012

The Ultimate in Elegance

QUESTION: What can you tell me about this plate? Is it collectible or ready for the dumpster.

ANSWER: If I were dumpster diving, I certainly would take a tumble for your plate. What you have is an authentic, hand-painted plate made in Limoges, France.

French Limoges is the name of delicate porcelain ware made in the Limousin region of France since the 18th century. It includes dinnerware, centerpieces, and the distinctive porcelain snuff and pill boxes that have become valuable collectors' items. The town of Limoges contains numerous factories that produced these wares, and, in fact, still do. The kaolin found in the rich soil in this French region is the vital element in the mix that makes up Limoges porcelain paste and gives it its delicate character.

Your particular type of plate, depending on its size, could be a case plate or a charger. Victorians loved to collect things and during the late 19th century, decorative display cases placed in the dining room, later to be commonly known as “china closets,” held various porcelain wares. Small hand-painted plates, usually from 7-8 inches in diameter, became a popular item to display in these cases. Housewives also displayed their best china in these cases.

Chargers, on the other hand, are larger decorative plates that a hostess would put at each place setting. Servants would take these away and replace them with plates of food. In French dining service, there should always be a plate in front of the person dining, whether full or not. So between each course, the serve would set the charger in front of the guest or family member.

Your plate has all the marks of authentic Limoges china. The McKinley Tariff Law went into effect in 1891, so all imported goods after that time had to be marked with the name of the country of origin. All Limoges items lacking the word "France" were made before 1891.

First, it has the maker's mark (partially obscured) in green on the bottom of the piece. This identifies the specific factory in Limoges that cast and fired your plate. This mark was impressed into the porcelain under the glaze at the point when the porcelain was still blank or "whiteware." Sometimes the mark just says "Limoges France," but in this case it seems to bear the name of Magnac-Bourg Limoges. Some marks incorporate a symbol such as a bird or a butterfly, but in this case it’s star with the word “Limoges” set into it.

The decorator's mark appears on the front of the plate. It seems to read “F. Faure.” While one of the presidents of France was named Felix Faure, there isn’t any evidence that he was a lowly plate decorator before winning that high office. The signature in this case is handwritten. Many Limoges pieces say "Peint Main," which stood for hand painted, on the back.

The mark on the back of your plate that is the clearest is that of the importer. In this case LS &S stands for Lazarus Strauss & Sons of New York, founded in 1869. The company imported chinaware from various countries in Europe, including Britain, France, and Germany and Czechoslovakia. In 1874, his son Nathan, got RH Macy to permitted them to have a glass and chinaware department in their store, making LS & S wares the first china and glassware to be sold by Macy’s. And while LS & S imported china, they also operated factories in the leading china making centers in the above countries.

Today, case plates and chargers made in Limoges, France, sell for $25 and up, depending on their age. Sets of 6 sell for much more.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great info, thanks. Have similar plates.