21 August 2013

Slate Porcelain for the White House

A Unique and Beautiful Dinner Set

The new and beautiful porcelain service for the White House was received there last evening. It is from the potteries of Haviland & Co., Americans, who are located at Limoges, France. In the spring of 1879 an order was given to this firm to furnish the Executive Mansion with a dinner service, which, as it was to be used only for state occasions, Mrs. Hayes desired should combine appropriate American decoration. Mr. Theodere Haviland called to his aid Theodore R. Davis, the artist for Harper's, who undertook the invention of designs for shapes and color to be reproduced in chinaware. The varied experience of Mr. Davis as an artist and as a student of nature and animal life peculiarly fitted him for the work. The designs for the service where made in water color, and although in nearly every instance bold and striking they were difficult to reproduce perfectly upon porcelain with hard mineral color. To successfully accomplish this it was necessary to invent new methods and to have recourse to peculiar mechanical appliances. A high degree of finish was attained in every piece. Some of the pieces when singly examined lose a part of their attractiveness, but when placed upon the table the effect is very pleasant and striking. The artists who assisted Mr. Davis were all foreigners. They were Bracquemond and Tocham, from Auteuil; Valentine and Gormault, Paris; Lambert, Sevres; Lissac, Chadal, Valette, Charles Ricroch, Barbarin, Laforest, Hayon, Duclalr, Dominique and Mile. Anna, of Limoges.

Other pieces show some of the fine bird imagery depicted. The book depicting the collection is not available online, however.

The sets are composed as follows: A special oyster plate; soup plates designed with twelve subjects: Mountain laurel, the blue crab, Indian cook of the XV. century, palmetto cabbage, harvest moon, tomato, green turtle, southward flight of ducks, clam bake, frog. 1776, and okra. The fish series is composed of twelve subjects, which decorate plates shaped expressly for this course, and a platter which exhibits a careful study of the shad. The subjects are these: Red snapper, Spanish mackerel, terrapin, speckled trout, black bass, smelt, striped bass, fresh-water lobster, pompano, brook pike, blue fish, and sheeps-head. The dinner series embraces twelve illustrations besides the platter. The latter has the wild turkey for its subject. The others are: The may-flower (trailing arbutus), bear in a bee tree, male deer, buffalo, coon in a persimmon tree, chickens in a garden, peccaries, Rocky mountain sheep, antelope floating for deer, crane's walk 'round, and on the plains at night. An independent butter plate is a part of the service. The game course is supplied with a novel platter, with "On Chesapeake Bay" as its subject. Twelve other subjects are also in the course: The canvas back duck, rail, ptarmigan's bath, ruffed grouse, bob white, California quail, wild pigeon, teal duck, yellow-legged snipe, rice or reed bird, the woodcock and pinnated grouse. For the desert or fruit plate there is a special design. The different pieces bear twelve subjects: — Chincapin nut, pecan nut, papaw, locust, mocking bird, maple sugar, Concord grape, huckleberry, persimmon, Ohio golden rod, Baltimore oriole, Virginia creeper and studio. The after dinner coffee cup and the tea cup complete the set. The form of the coffee cup is derived from a joint of the bamboo stalk; a sprout springing from the eye of the joint serves for the handle, The decoration is simple but very rich. The cup and saucer are of bamboo color. The tea cup is shaped like an inverted mandarin's hat; the handle is formed by the stem of a tea plant, the eaves of which are used as a decoration for the exterior of the cup. The interior of the cup is a delicate green. The saucer is enriched with dead gold.

The oyster plate is something decidedly new. The colors are laid upon the China clay under the glaze. Fine blue point oyster shells cover the principal service of the plate; beyond these is a cluster of raccoon oysters. Sprays of seaweed cluster about these and serve for decoration. In the background is a glimpse of the ocean. The soup plate is modeled from the Kalmia flower, and is in shape more a ten-sided angular bowl than a plate. The outside surface is a delicate pink. Each plate has a separate design for the interior. The platter which accompanies the first series is novel in form, being rectangular, with the corners rolled and enriched with gold. A magnificent shad is struggling to free himself from the webs of a net. The cords of the net are gold. The form of the service plate for fish is derived from the scallop shell, two of which are combined to form the plate, the large shell being designed for the dish and the smaller receiving the decoration. The wild turkey is the design or the platter for the dinner series. Upon the surface of the dish is painted a magnificent wild turkey, strutting through a light snow, upon which are delicate reflections from his rich plumage. A sunset sky, against which are defined the forms of distant trees composes the back ground. The form of the dinner plates is coupe, surrounded by a narrow rim. The shape is unusual. The twelve illustrations are vigorous in subject, drawing and color. The independent butter plate is a close copy of the leaf of the water lily. The surface of the leaf is a tender green color. Drops of water are on the leaf. The game plate is in form of a coupe or plaque, less in size than the dinner plate. The different subjects are exquisitely wrought. The fruit plate is modeled from the leaf of the American wild apple. It is very beautiful. There are over 500 pieces in the set.

July 03, 1880. Washington D.C. Evening Star 56(8501): 1. The set is recognized as one of the "most unusual" of the china services made for a president of the U.S.A. It cost $3,120. Refer also to Haviland and Company, "The White House Porcelain Service: Designs by an American Artist, Illustrating Exclusively American Fauna and Flora." 1879 (New York, 1880).