Kakiemon, the famed Japanese originator of the style that bears this name, was the first to bring enamel to the fabric of porcelain in 17th-century Japan. Kakiemon decoration was of very high quality, known for its delicate and asymmetric—yet well balanced—designs.
The Chantilly Porcelain Factory was one of the first of its kind in France. It was founded under the auspices of Louis XV in 1730, who established a patent for Asian style porcelain but with a soft paste. This soft-paste porcelain, fragile and delicate, was a challenge to fire without chipping or breaking. It was, however, an excellent base for the finest decoration. The Kakiemon decorative style dominated Chantilly for 10 years.
Eighteenth-century France was a time of elegance that inspired the decorative arts as well as gastronomy. The court introduced sumptuous haute cuisine, and there was a need for a domestic factory to create new, refined wares to enhance the dining experience. The Museum’s graceful and charming Sauce Tureen with Cover and Tray was made by the Chantilly Porcelain Factory in about 1735. Styled in the Kakiemon tradition, the set is fabricated of soft-paste porcelain with a palette of strong, bright colors in polychrome over a pure milky-white base.
I view these wares with awe, and find each to be a work of design perfection. The delicate renditions of flowery branches and insects, strategically placed on a magnificently conceived four-lobed tray, serve to heighten the purity of the white background. The tureen is decorated with floral and vine motifs clustered at intervals. The cover, notched for a ladle, is complete with a handle of three petunia-like flowers. This porcelain is, to my mind, unsurpassed in sheer elegance and classic beauty. For its decorative arts, its porcelain, and its culinary arts, 18th-century France reigns supreme.