Thursday, July 17, 2014

Vintage Quimper Soleil Yellow Tablescape

(Thank you to Kathryn of the Dedicated House for featuring this post!)

Today's tablescape brings a little of the French countryside to us all, here in mid-summer.

A few years ago I attended a local auction that featured a large amount of [Henriot] Quimper faience pottery tableware in the "Soleil Yellow" pattern.  It was displayed as pictured, below.
Quimper "Soleil Yellow" as displayed at auction
There were 58 pieces in total, including 8 dinner plates, 8 luncheon plates, 10 salad or bread/butter plates, and 16 cups/saucers. I was pretty sure most people in attendance either didn't care for the yellow color, didn't know much about Quimper*, or both.  I was right, and got this set for a steal. (*see end of post for a brief history on Quimper pottery and the decorative theme seen in this set).

"Soleil Yellow" has been manufactured by the Henriot factory since the 1920's, and this pottery came from a single estate, manufactured sometime after 1930, likely during WWII.  It was a popular gift from soldiers, who were stationed in France, to their loved ones during that era.
Quimper Soleil Yellow table for four
I felt the pottery evoked a strong pastoral theme in both its seasonally sunny colors and its regional origin, so I chose to set my table casually. The octagonally-shaped Quimper includes a dinner plate, salad plate, bread and butter plate, and cup and saucer for each place setting.  There are two of each, male and female Bretons, completing this service, alternating at each setting.
Single place setting, Quimper Soleil Yellow - female Breton (Male Breton bread and butter can be seen at top right).

Napkins are a white cotton duck, trimmed with a yellow stripe.  Flatware is Oneida from the same era (1940's).  The table centerpiece includes a simple, coordinating daisy bouquet, a resting cow, and hard-working, railroad company silver (plate) cream and sugar on underplate.
Table centerpiece
This casual setting showcases the uniqueness of Henriot factory's Quimper faience, with each piece entirely hand-painted and decorated: bright and cheerful, simple and delightful. Although it would be extra special to be able to have additional serving pieces, I am content with what I have, and using other utilitarian items in my collection for serving.
As a collector, this set of tableware delights me on a number of levels.  First, it is no surprise to my readers by now that I love dishes.  Secondly, I knew the origin of these dishes when I bid on them. They come from the Brittany region of France.  Thirty years ago, when I became pregnant with my first child, I wanted to name the baby, if a girl, Brittany.  My ballet master was from Belgium, and I adored both he and his wife. I have loved all things French since studying the language in high school. So, once pregnant, I studied a map of France looking for a name that would encompass all of that, settling on Brittany. Lastly, I love a great bargain when finding vintage and antique items, and this purchase certainly filled that bill.

If you would like more information regarding Quimper collections, and would enjoy seeing more variety of Quimper, including other patterns of the pottery tableware and beyond, please visit these blogging friends' websites: Sarah at Hyacinths for the Soul and Debbie at Confessions of a Plate Addict.  You can use the search tab and type 'Quimper' for a number of different posts on the subject.  Sarah is an active member of the Quimper Club International and both gals have traveled to France.

*A Brief History of Quimper Pottery:  
Although I do not claim to be expert in the area of European pottery tableware, a brief background of faience pottery and Quimper (pronounced kem-pair) seems appropriate.  Faience is a tin-glazed (oxide-based), hand-painted earthenware of a pale buff color, generally associated with the Faenza region of Italy. Faience ware revolutionized the manufacture and export of pottery around the world as early as the 15thC, as it mimicked the look of more expensive porcelain wares previously exported from China.  From various regions came their own versions of faience: the Dutch produced Delft, the English produced English Delft, and the French most notoriously produced Quimper, among other regional makers.  

Quimper is a town, located in the Brittany region of France, and has been making faience pottery since the turn of the 18thC. The man credited as the founder of Quimper faience pottery is Jean-Baptiste Bousquet. By early 1900, two other competitive factories became one, known as the Henriot factory. The Bousquet factory was sold, but retained the name Grande Maison HB. In 1968, the two factories (Henriot and Grande Maison HB) merged and became known as Henriot.

The people and the language of Quimper are Breton, with a strong Celtic heritage.  The most widely produced designs seen on the Quimper faience pottery are of its peasant countryside people, Bretons, in traditional attire. Each piece is hand-painted and decorated, and then marked Henriot, authenticating its uniqueness and manufacture.

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