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English Pate sur Pate Porcelain

Nic Saintey, Head of the Ceramics Department, writes about the pate sur pate decorative technique used in England with porcelain from the mid 1850s onwards.

A pate sur pate plate signed by Frederick Alfred Rhead.

A pate sur pate plate signed by Frederick Alfred Rhead.

Pate sur pate (translated as 'paste on paste') is a decorative technique for porcelain stumbled upon at Sevres in the mid 1850s and subsequently perfected by Marc Louis Solon. It was a style of decoration that under the hands of Frederick Alfred Rhead, Lawrence and Albion Birks, Frederick Schenck and several others also became very popular in England during the latter decades of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century.

The process is very time consuming and involves painting primarily white clay slips, though a wider palette can be used, on a dark background. After each has dried, successive further layers are applied before being scraped and carved back to form the required decoration in low relief.

A pair of George Jones pate sur pate vases by Frederick Schenck.

A pair of George Jones pate sur pate vases by Frederick Schenck.

After firing, if all had gone to plan, the finished piece had a translucent ghost like quality – needless to say the painstaking method was time consuming and often ended in failure - and bearing in mind it's French roots - the decoration was invariably Neoclassical or Renaissance in influence; as a result the technique never really became main stream and remained affordable only to the deepest of pockets.

However, when faced with a good vase or plaque from Minton, Wedgwood, George Jones or Birks Rawlins & Co one can see why they attracted such attention.

A not so affordable pate sur pate vase by Frederick Rhead for Woods & Sons.

A not so affordable pate sur pate vase by Frederick Rhead for Woods & Sons.

Frederick Rhead did try to champion affordable pate sur pate whilst at Woods & Sons and although the results were striking, they were never really truly affordable by the general public.

There are techniques that to the naked eye look very similar to pate sur pate, amongst these is the so called Limoges enamel mastered by Thomas Bott for Kerr & Binns of Worcester. Whilst almost identical, the Worcester technique involved decoration with white enamel or glazes, rather than layers of slip, being painted on to a dark background.

A Limoges enamel ewer attributed to Thomas Bott at Worcester.

A Limoges enamel ewer attributed to Thomas Bott at Worcester.

Whilst the decorative results were similar (unsurprisingly influenced by Limoges enamel on copper) and equally applauded when first in production in the 1870s, there was an unseen catch. Thomas Bott used to lick his brush to get a point so he could paint the finer detail on his work. Unfortunately, he died prematurely at the age of forty years old from Arsenic poisoning.

I can't help admiring the quality of decoration that can be created by using what is in effect mud, but guess the moral of the story is keep your raw materials simple and stay away from anything that appears on the Periodic Table!

Tags

  • Bearnes Hampton & Littlewood
  • Pate sur Pate Porcelain
  • Marc Louis Solon
  • Frederick Alfred Rhead
  • Lawrence Birks
  • Albion Birks
  • Frederick Schenck
  • Minton
  • Wedgwood
  • George Jones
  • Birk Rawlins & Co
  • Woods & Sons
  • Limoge Enamel
  • Thomas Bott
  • Kerr & Binns

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About the Author

Nic SainteyNic Saintey
Ceramics and Glass

Nic Saintey is a Director of Bearnes Hampton & Littlewood, with responsibility for marketing and advertising. He is also Head of the Ceramics and Glass Department.

Nic Saintey's first career was in the Armed Forces where he served both as a military parachutist and paramedic in Europe, North America, East Africa and the Middle East.

He joined Lawrence’s of Crewkerne in early 1995 before moving to their Taunton branch as a general valuer and saleroom manager.

Nic joined Bearne’s in June 2000 to head up the expanding ceramic department, before joining the Board in 2003. His effervescent nature and wide experience has seen him regularly appear as an expert on the BBC’s Bargain Hunt and Flog It programmes.

He undertakes regular talks and contributes articles to both Devon and Cornwall Life magazines. His interests particularly include pottery in general, but especially that produced in Donyatt and North Devon, he is a keen runner and has recently taken up motor sport at a local circuit.