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Forging Ahead with Mr Samson - Edme Samson Misunderstood or Just a Dodgy Faker?

Ceramics expert Nic Saintey writes about Samson, Edme et Cie of Paris whose reproduction pieces (including some rather nefarious pieces) are now faked themselves.

A very dubious Samson copy of a Plymouth porcelain mug.

A very dubious Samson copy of a Plymouth porcelain mug.

The company of Samson, Edme et Cie or just plain old Samson of Paris has a somewhat colourful reputation amongst collectors. Born in 1810, Edme Samson started a workshop in 1845 that specialised in decorating good quality reproductions of 'antique' (primarily) porcelain pieces in museums and renowned private collections. Not unlike Ullysse Cantagalli who several decades later did the same sort of thing in Florence, but using pottery as his medium of choice. Samson obviously found himself a useful niche as the business took off allowing his son Emile Samson to join the family business when it moved to larger premises in the 1860s, although it seems that initially at least Samson didn't make anything, but decorated blanks bought in from other factories.

A Samson copy of an early Worcester porcelain sauce boat in a somewhat garish palette.

A Samson copy of an early Worcester porcelain sauce boat
in a somewhat garish palette.

The range of Samson's work is very broad including copies of Chinese famille rose and famille verte porcelain and especially armorial pieces, but he also produced plausible reproductions of Japanese Imari as well. However, considerably closer to home Samson also produced new pieces of Worcester, Chelsea, Sevres and Meissen porcelain, in fact any domestic European factory of note seemed fair game.

A Samson Imari porcelain charger.

A Samson Imari porcelain charger.

As Samson is recorded as exhibiting at a number of international exhibitions and operated from a Paris address, presumably with showrooms, we have to assume that his business was all above board. One could see why collectors, who could neither afford an unusual piece or were impatient to acquire a rarity, might be happy to purchase from Samson. Also, if you had lost part of a dinner or tea service, or perhaps a piece from a garniture, or a family heirloom, originally produced by a now defunct factory, you had little choice other than Samson if you wanted to acquire a replacement. As such you would be happy that these 'antiques' would bear the name of their recent maker – an 'S' or double 'S' in blue on most occasions, or if the item was Oriental, a faux Chinese mark in red that would have fooled nobody.

A Samson 'faux' Chinese mark.

A Samson 'faux' Chinese mark.

Where the picture gets a little more concerning is when Samson reproductions bear no marks at all, or bore more than passable facsimiles of the original manufactories, such as the crossed swords of Meissen. Whilst it was illegal to do so it has become obvious that if requested by a client, Samson did clandestinely produce fakes to order, which is why he has such a poor name now. The picture is further muddied by other purchasers who deviously erased Samson's mark either leaving a telling patch of ground out glaze or replacing it with more convenient marks.

However, most serious collectors are nowadays easily able to spot his work as the palette used is often more garish and the handling of the paint is often more contrived and stiff; obviously if you were painting a small number of pieces your work would not have the fluidity of an enameller who had spent years with the same pattern.

A very plausible Samson copy of a Chelsea plate.

A very plausible Samson copy of a Chelsea plate.

There seems no doubt that the Samson concern filled a hole in the market and his copying work is often of a very high standard, but owing to some rather nefarious practice, he and his descendants (the Samson concern continued right up until the mid-20th century) are now infamous rather than famous, but the delicious irony is that Samson himself is now faked. Fake of fakes, now that is something.

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  • Samson, Edme et Cie

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About the Author

Nic SainteyNic Saintey
Ceramics and Glass

Nic Saintey has been a director of Bearnes Hampton & Littlewood since 2003 and heads up the Ceramics and Glass Department. He is part of the team specialising in Chinese ceramics and works of art.

Nic's first career was in the Armed Forces where he served both as a military parachutist and paramedic. He joined a firm of Somerset auctioneers in early 1995 and Bearnes during a period of expansion in June 2000.

His effervescent nature, sense of humour, broad knowledge and experience has seen him appear as an expert for BBC television programmes. He undertakes regular talks to both academic and general interest groups talking on subjects as diverse as Staffordshire pottery and pop culture, Chinese porcelain and the troubled relationship between Britain and the Orient, the English drinking glass and the Donyatt potters.

He is an occasional contributor of articles for national and local publications and is equally fascinated by the stories attached to pots as he is about the objects themselves.

His personal interests include Oriental and domestic pottery, but especially that produced in the West Country.

Accompanied by his Lurcher Stickey, he is a keen Moorland walker (but only in the winter), an increasingly slow runner and a chaotic cook who always eats his own mistakes and, yes of course, he collects pottery!