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: A Collection of Strasbourg Pottery and Porcelain


Merrill C. Rueppel

Institution Minneapolis Institute of Arts
The Minneapolis Institute of Arts is happy to announce the acquisition of a large collection of 18th-century pottery and porcelain that includes more than sixty pieces of Strasbourg faïence and porcelain from the factories of Niderviller and Frankenthal. Given by Mrs. John P. Rutherfurd in memory of her father, Thomas L. Shevlin, this collection offers an unusual opportunity for the appreciation and study of a style of pottery long esteemed for its artistic qualities and techniques of manufacture and one which profoundly influenced the later faïence production of Western Europe. The entire collection, comprising 112 pieces, will be exhibited in the South Wing galleries, C-20, 21, and 22, between August 1 and September 2, 1956. The faïence of Strasbourg was among the finest produced in Europe in the 18th century. Technically, it deferred little from the pottery of other cities, being simply earthenware covered with an opaque white glaze. But it esthetic qualities, particularly the distinctive effects created in its painted decoration, established a fashion that, after 1750, was followed by most other pottery factories in both France and Germany. In general, the history of its development in the history of one family, the Hannongs.Charles-François Hannong was established in Strasbourg in 1709 as a maker of clay pipes, but shortly afterwards, in 1721, turned his attention to pottery and started a factory in partnership with J. H. Wackenfeld. Wackenfeld left the firm after a year, but the business continued to prosper through 1732 when the elder Hannong gave it to his sons, Paul-Antoine and Balthasar, the former taking complete control in 1737. Expansion of the factory and major improvements in quality were due largely to the administrative and creative talent of Paul Hannong. Employing outstanding painters and modellers to mold and decorate his wares, he introduced, in the late 1740s, the practice of panting with “enamel” colors—a technique of decoration commonly used on porcelain but until then, rarely applied to faïence. Apart from enhancing the ware with a brighter and more full-bodied coloration, this resulted in a closer imitation of the decorative effects of porcelain, always a major aim of the pottery maker. By painting with easily fused pigments on top of the previously fired opaque-white tin glaze, and then firing the piece a second time, Hannong produced a depth and brilliance of color, especially a carmine-purple and copper green, that had never been attained so successfully by other faïence makers. The increased prestige and popularity of the faïence decorated by this new technique raised Strasbourg to the first rank among European pottery producers, a position maintained even after Paul Hannong's death in 1760 by a member of the third generation of the family, Paul's son, Joseph-Adam Hannong. Continuing the production of faïence, Joseph further extended the activities of the factory for another fifteen years until a series of misfortunes, among them a severe tariff law which cut off French markets, forced him to close the factory in 1780.In style, Strasbourg wares fall into three fairly distinct groups which correspond to the generations of the Hannong family. The earliest pieces, made under the direction of Charles François Hannong (1721-39), were painted predominately in blue-and-white in the manner of the faïence of Rouen. This style is represented in Mrs. Rutherfurd's gift by two large platters and an octagonal plate of semi-geometric design. In the early 1740s, under Paul Hannong (1740-60), this blue-and-white ware was gradually replaced with decoration of flowers and insects painted naturalistically in the new Strasbourg colors of carmine and green. Several large tureens, and nearly a dozen plates and service pieces in the collection, are typical examples of this style. Other characteristic types of faïence produced by Paul Hannong were the so-called “trompe-l'oeil” ware—dishes molded with fruit and vegetables and bowls or boxes shaped as boars' heads or melons—and a wide variety of statuettes of figures, animals, and oriental motifs. These are represented in the collection by examples from both Strasbourg and Niderviller. In the final period, under Joseph Hannong (1762-80), the factory continued to produce these major types of ware with only slight changes in design, as well as new pieces in the form of pierced bowls, plates decorated with chinoiserie figures, and statuettes in both porcelain and faïence.In contrast to its extensive production of faïence, the Strasbourg factory was generally unsuccessful in its efforts to manufacture porcelain on a comparable scale. Paul Hannong first made porcelain in 1752-53, but the powerful monopoly of the royal factory at Vincennes (later Sèvres) forced him to transfer his operation in 1755 beyond the French border to the city of Frankenthal in the Palatinate, where he established a porcelain factory that remained under family control until 1762. His son, Joseph, again manufactured porcelain at Strasbourg in 1766-68 but was finally defeated in this enterprise by the tariff regulations of 1774. In spite of these restrictions, however, both Paul and Joseph completed many excellent porcelain figures, in Frankenthal and later in Strasbourg, and the collection contains a number of examples that well represent their skill. Similarly, the neighboring factory at Niderviller, established in 1754 by Baron Jean-Louis Beyerlé with the help of artists and workmen from Strasbourg and later purchased and operated by Adam Philbert, Comte de Custine, in 1770-71, produced wares of superior quality in both faïence and porcelain, but being strongly influenced by Strasbourg, the product is almost indistinguishable from the work of the older factory. Among the pieces from Niderviller in Mrs. Rutherfurd's gift are a faïence tureen of Rococo form surmounted with a characteristic knob of modelled fruit, a plate in “decor bois,” or simulated wood-grain design with a landscape in rectangular vignette in the center, and especially fine figure pieces in faïence, porcelain and bisque.Whereas these pieces from Frankenthal and Niderviller greatly extend the breadth of the collection and indicate the influence of the Hannongs, it is the finer quality of the Strasbourg ware that reveals the creative and productive power of the family through sixty years. Richly diverse in shape and decorated with a variety of meticulously drawn in floral bouquets in bright colors against a gleaming white base, these many pieces of faïence clearly attest the imagination and taste of their makers. In combining a sense of delicacy and grace with strong linear design, the Hannongs created a style of pottery that was among the finest of its time. For later generations it has had the effect of typifying the freshness and exuberance that pervaded the decorative arts of France throughout the 18th century.Referenced Works of Art
  1. Tureen of Strasbourg Faïence from the period of Paul Hannong (1740-60), one of a collection of glazed earthenware and porcelain from Strasbourg and neighboring 18th-century ceramic manufacturies given to the Institute by Mrs. John P. Rutherfurd in memory of her father, Thomas L. Shevlin.
  2. Faïence Octagonal Plate. Strasbourg (France). Period of Charles-François Hannong (1721-39). Gift of Mrs. John P. Rutherfurd.
  3. Floral Painting from Faïence Plate. Strasbourg (France), period of Joseph Hannong (1762-80). Gift of Mrs. John P. Rutherfurd.
  4. Young Woman Offering a Flower. Faïence statuette. Niderviller (France), mid-18th century. Gift of Mrs. John P. Rutherfurd.
  5. Reclining Venus. Strasbourg porcelain statuette. Period of Joseph Hannong (1762-80). Gift of Mrs. John P. Rutherfurd.
  6. Faïence Tureen and Platter. Niderviller (France), mid-18th century. Gift of Mrs. John P. Rutherfurd.
  7. Faïence Plate of Wood-Grain Design. Niderviller (France), 18th century. Painted by J. Deutsch, 1774. Gift of Mrs. John P. Rutherfurd.
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Source: Merrill C. Rueppel, "A Collection of Strasbourg Pottery and Porcelain," <i>The Minneapolis Institute of Arts Bulletin</i> 55, no. 4 (July-August, 1956): 39-43.
Rights: ©MIA
Added to Site: March 10, 2009