There is hardly anything more enjoyable than sitting down to a good meal with old friends. But what about sharing the table with some remarkably beautiful antique finds as well? Take a look at these lovely accessories I came across at New England Antique Show's recent Concord Armory Show last April. I would call these worthy of throwing a dinner party in their honor! What do you think?
The centerpiece of these finds is this eye catching arts and crafts/mission style vase. It is cream, brown, and gold and approximately 11.5" tall and 4.5" in diameter at its widest. It was produced by Bernardaud & Co. (B&Co.) Limoges and signed by the Sisters of Notre Dame Covington, KY (c.1900-1914). This vase was manufactured in France, in the city of Limoges, which is the administrative capital of the Limousin region in west-central France. The piece was most likely painted by the Sisters of Notre Dame, for fund raising, or perhaps simply pleasure in the aesthetic beauty of the vase and workmanship. It is interesting that the Sisters took what could be interpreted as a "French" flavor to their decoration. Their details include two small gold crowns; their large florals have a fleur-de-lis quality to them.
Casting a little light to our tabletop celebration is a pair of candlesticks in complementary colors to the vase discussed above. These art deco/mission style candle holders are 5.25" tall and 4" in diameter. They are painted with a triangular theme, perhaps to accentuate the angles in their bases, tops, and handles. They were also produced in the Limoges district by another regional manufacturer, Tressemanes & Vogt, T&V Limoges. They are marked T&V and signed "A. Slack, 1930" on the bottom of each. Like the vase, this pretty pair were manufactured in France then sent to the US for finishing.
Both the vase and the candlesticks had their beginnings in Limoges, France, a region known worldwide for its fine porcelain companies. It is a popular misconception that Limoges is a manufacturer; it is actually a hub of excellence for world class porcelain manufacturing. A key element in creating fine porcelain is a type of clay called kaolin (roughly Chinese for "white clay"). Kaolin was discovered in the Limoges area in 1768. Soon after, many entrepreneurs started coming to the area to set up manufacturing facilities to take advantage of its "white gold". At the time, the demand for beautiful home accessories across many parts of Europe was on the rise so the business opportunities in the industry were all but limitless.
Bernardaud, the manufacturer of the vase mentioned above, began producing porcelain in the Limoges area in 1863. It remains a family owned company with the fifth generation managing all operations today. According to ceramics expert Mary Frank Gaston in The Collector's Encyclopedia of Limoges, during the 1920s as many as 48 companies were producing wares marked Limoges. Often times, these pieces included three types of identification: the Limoges mark, the mark of the particular manufacturer, and the signature of the artist who painted the item. Today, collectors and enthusiasts can view several centuries of Limoges treasures (and even try their own hand at painting porcelain!) at the Musée national Adrien Dubouché, the Limoges museum located in Limoges, France.
Around the turn of last century, Limoges was gaining popularity in the United States - not only for finished tableware, but as a crafts hobby as well. In the late 1890's and early 20th century, underdecorated pieces - called blanks - from the Limoges area and other European places, were imported to the US. Once in the US, individual men and women would paint and sign them (in addition to studio painters). The artists were often members of clubs which would have competitions and shows to exhibit their artistry. I'd give both these pieces the blue ribbon, wouldn't you?
I am sure everyone is full now from this discussion on Limoges table wear. For the dessert course, I would like to thank David Weidner and Jared Cilley of Dark Flowers Antiques for sharing these fantastic finds with us. Dark Flowers Antiques specializes in Art Nouveau, Art Deco, and Arts and Crafts Porcelain and Pottery, mainly pieces of European origin sent to North America as blanks and painted in the US and Canada. The store's criteria? The owners will not buy or sell anything they would not mind keeping themselves. David and Jared are regular dealers at New England Antique Shows throughout the year and sell online at http://www.rubylane.com/shops/darkflowers. Contact them at email@example.com if you are interested in the vase or candlesticks featured in this column.
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