Friday, December 10, 2010

Limoges Porcelain Boxes • Wonderful Miniatures from France

We have always loved miniature boxes. Through the years we have collected little boxes from several countries and made from materials like wood, silver, pottery, glass, and our favorite, porcelain. The hand painted porcelain boxes from Limoges, France, are fascinating. The range of design and intricacy makes it possible to collect these miniatures for a long time and not tire of them. Plus, since they are small, they are easy to display and do not take up a lot of space.
Our personal collection of wine related Limoges boxes.
The Limousin district of France, about 200 miles south of Paris, was known for its intricate enamel work as far back as the 12th century. Pottery production began in the early 1700s, with the manufacture of simple, functional faience pieces. These two industries provided a good base of experience and skill for the introduction of hard-paste porcelain when kaolin clay was discovered in the area around 1770.

Decorated hard-paste porcelain was known to the Chinese as far back as the second century BC, but was not introduced to the Europeans until early in the 16th century. The Chinese guarded their formulas and techniques closely, but in 1712 the German Meissen Factory developed methods to make the high fired, hard-paste porcelain. When the right kaolin clay was discovered near the town of Limoges, the French monarchy helped establish the Limoges porcelain industry. 

Limoges porcelain boxes are completely hand made in the city of Limoges, France. Originally these were designed as snuff boxes, and were a necessary accessory for the well dressed French lady or gentleman in the 18th and 19th centuries. Later these boxes were used as patch boxes and pill boxes. Some are large enough for trinkets, perfume bottles, thimbles and sewing kits, and special treasures.
Contemporary Limoges Boxes in the Traditional Style
The earlier boxes - essentially antique and vintage pieces from before 1950 - were quite traditional and simple in shape and design, reflecting their purpose as a snuff or pill box. After WWII, the industry began to bring our designs that were much more complex and whimsical. These novelty boxes still hold to the high standards of workmanship established over the long history of Limoges porcelain manufacture. 

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