Sevres Cobalt Plate
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A Prestige item, limited to one.
The Prestige Sevres Plate Series is the latest addition to the Prestige Collection from Royal Collection Trust. Each Plate in this series is based upon individual Plates within the Royal Collection, all of which were originally produced by the Sevres Porcelain Manufactory near Versailles in France.
Made by skilled craftsmen in Stoke-on-Trent, the heart of the English 'potteries' each Prestige Sevres Plate has been painstakingly produced entirely by hand using techniques largely unchanged for 300 years so as to reproduce the originals as closely as possible using 21st century materials.
First the plate is hand 'rolled' using traditional plaster of paris moulds and the finest English bone china clay. Afterwards each plate is carefully inspected in the 'clay' stage before being 'fettled and sponged' by hand to remove any 'making' marks left by the mould. Once completed the first 'Biscuit' firing takes place at 1280ºC for over 8 hours in a modern, regulated gas-fired ceramic 'Kiln'.
Following the biscuit firing, each plate has to be glazed, but before this takes place it is scrutinised for any imperfections and if any are found, however slight, repairs are carried out and the piece fired again to the sane temperature. Once satisfied that the plate is perfect, it has to be brushed by hand using a stiff, natural bristle brush to remove any trace of dust from the 'Biscuit' firing and to give a smooth finish to accommodate the glaze. The Plate is then 'sprayed' by hand using a transparent, lead free 'Glaze'. The plate is now placed back onto the 'Kiln' and fired to a temperature of approximately 1100ºC, again for over 8 hours, after which the beautiful white translucency, synonymous with the finest English bone china shows through. It is worth noting that the 'glaze' is totally transparent, so the beautiful whiteness you see is the bone china.
Once the glazed plate has been allowed to cool naturally, it is again thoroughly inspected for any imperfections and any that are found are repaired and the Plate fired again. This stage is critical as from hereon, the decoration process begins and it is essential to ensure the Plate is flawless before this commences.
The first decoration stage is the application of the background colour. This colour is called the 'Groundlay' and is applied, by hand, using enamel colour applied through a fine spray. In order to keep the finish even and consistent across the Plate, this 'Groundlay' has to be built up in several layers until the desired colour strength is achieved. It is worth noting that the Plate has to be fired again following each individual application of 'Groundlay' colour and in the case of this Plate, 3 separate firings were needed, this time to 900ºC to build up the colour to the desired level. Once the 'Groundlay' is complete, the Plate is inspected again prior to commencement of the next stage of decoration, the hand painting of the main scenes.
Many years ago hand painting was more widespread in the industry, but now only a handful of ceramic artists remain and one of the most respected and 'collected' artists in the industry today – Lee Price, has painted the Royal Collection Prestige Sevres Plate. Working from very hi-resolution images taken of the originals in the Royal Collection, all the hand painting is carried out using finest English enamels using a wide variety of brushes or 'Pencils' as they are termed by the artist.
As with the 'Groundlay', all the individual scenes and panels are built up in increasing detail over a period of time and several layers by the artist. Separate firings following each 'layer' of colour application are required, and a total of 6 separate firings were needed to complete the central scene and its surrounding panels. Each firing was at a temperature of approximately 800ºC. Finally, and only once the artist is satisfied with his work it will be signed.
Once the hand painting is complete and the all the firings have been carried out, the piece is then ready to have its first layers of gold applied. The artist who hand painted the Plate will now move onto the application of flat gold and gold filigree work. The raised gold ornamentation is built up gradually, in several layers of ‘paste’ entirely by hand using the finest brushes. After each application of 'paste' the Plate has to be fired again and allowed to cool before the process can be repeated with each layer if 'paste' becoming finer and finer until the desired definition and raised height are achieved. In the case of the Prestige Plate, 4 separate firings were needed to achieve the desired 'paste' quality and definition.
Once the required level or height of ‘raised paste’ is achieved, the final stages of gold application can take place. The gold used is the finest quality 40% best burnished gold which is applied using fine brushes over the top of the previously fired 'paste'. However given its delicate nature, the gold will often need to be re-applied and re-fired several times to ensure an even, lustrous finish. In the case of the Prestige Plate, 4 separate firings were needed at this stage.
In total, the Prestige Plate has taken 70-100 man hours and almost 20 separate firings over a period of several months to produce by the skilled artists and craftsmen of the Staffordshire 'potteries'. It is a true work of art and modern day Museum Piece.