The Sèvres factory did not master the production of hard-paste porcelain until 1769. In comparison to soft-paste porcelain, the hard-paste ceramic body was superior: it was whiter, more durable, and usually could be potted or molded more thinly. There is an irony, however, in the fact that this whiter porcelain—the goal of all soft-paste porcelain factories—was often completely obscured by ground colors that covered the entire visible surface. Strong colors and painted surfaces that simulated other materials were very much in fashion in the late eighteenth century.
This hard-paste porcelain plate is decorated in a style that imitates Asian black lacquer. The painting is executed in two tones of gold with platinum highlights on a black ground. The abbreviated landscapes in the center and along the border reflect a type of decoration known as chinoiserie. These fanciful depictions of Asian scenes as imagined by Europeans usually include figures in oriental dress and exotic landscapes that have little basis in reality. Chinoiserie scenes, however, embodied the mystique and allure of the Far East for Europeans in the eighteenth century, and were popular as a category of decoration for furniture, wall paneling, and silver, as well as ceramics.
[Jeffrey H. Munger]