The first masters who worked in this technique were Chinese ceramists. Europeans, trying to create similar ceramics, found their own method, which is called “Pâte-sur-pâte” – a French term meaning “paste on pasta”.
The essence of the method Pâte-sur-pâte
The essence of the “pâte-sur-pâte” method is to create a relief pattern resembling a cameo, which is created on the unfired unglazed surface of a porcelain blank by applying with a brush many layers of white porcelain slip (liquid clay). The master makes a painting on a colored background. Thanks to the translucent structure of the white pattern, through which the background color shines through, the composition receives additional depth and volume. Each layer of prescription must dry before applying the next. The work is very painstaking and can take weeks.
After firing, the design is perfected by engraving to bring out the fine details.
The pioneers in the creation of pâte-sur-pâte were the masters of the Sevres porcelain manufactory. At the origins of this art form were such masters as Leopold-Jules-Joseph Gelly and Hyacinthe Renier.
Marc-Louis Solon – the most famous of the masters who worked in this technique and who began his career at the Sevres factory, subsequently brought this style to England. Porcelain factories in Germany and Austria soon also adopted the techniques of creating pâte-sur-pâte, which peaked in popularity in the second half of the 19th and early 20th centuries.
Having moved from France to England, Marc-Louis Solon was hired by the factory of Colin Minton Campbell, owner of Mintons Ltd, Staffordshire. He perfected this technique and for most of his working life was its leading exponent. He and his students, such as Alboin Burke and Henry Hollins, brought MINTONS worldwide fame for their work.
Lucien-Jules-Clement d’Aubonne was a painter in Sèvres from 1902-1914 and is known for his pâte-sur-pâte work. The following story is connected with this vase. It is believed that the vase was awarded as a prize at a polo tournament held in Belgium in 1908 or 1909. The winners celebrated the victory in their hotel in a big way, but failed to pay their bills. Unable to cover the costs, they left the prize with the hotel owners as collateral. As a result, the bill was never paid, and the owners of the hotel kept the vase even after it closed.
Although this story is difficult to confirm, the vase itself dates from 1907 and is painted in an unusual pattern for a factory. The decoration, reminiscent of a Greek frieze, is typical of sports medals and prizes of the period. It is also interesting to note that vases from Sèvres pâte-sur-pâte were awarded to the medalists of the 1924 Olympic Games in Paris.