Originally published in Cloisonné: Chinese Enamels from the Yuan, Ming and Qing Dynasties, edited by Béatrice Quette. New York: Bard Graduate Center, 2011. 171–185.

From the exhibition: Cloisonné: Chinese Enamels from the Yuan, Ming, and Qing Dynasties.

We are in such a state of intellectual confusion, with such uncertain plans, in this no-man’s land between active warfare and complete surrender, that we could make great strides down the right path or proceed just as rapidly down the wrong one.1

This assessment delivered by archaeologist and statesman Léon de Laborde in his monumental work De l’Union des arts et de l’industrie, which was published shortly after the 1855 Exposition Universelle in Paris, was a harsh one. Despite the fact that technical advances, financial power, and a political stability seemingly conducive to creativity were all in place, a sterile revivalism was spreading across the Western world like a cholera epidemic: “We have seen men of taste and imagination submit their genius to this humiliating yoke and consent to imitate the old, resoling worn out ideas instead of creating something new.… It might seem that art is no longer possible, that imagination has been exhausted.” Trying to understand the reasons for this catastrophe brought about by the “domination of tyrannical eunuchs,” Laborde invokes a “collapse of the spirit” and a “moral abasement”2 rooted in an “abasement of taste by the mercantile spirit.”3 Such a sense of discouragement could be overcome only through some mad hope, a utopian vision of a society resurrected by a transformation: “I would make … an artistic nation, one that had an industry whose every last worker, including those who purified the raw materials in a preliminary operation, could sense what these would become and bring their intelligence to bear on their small contribution to the entire process.… I would install talent, purity of taste, and nobility of style everywhere, things presently nowhere to be seen.”4

The struggle was first of all a national one, for France had come to feel dangerously threatened by England since the universal expositions had made readily visible the results of the heated commercial competition between the two countries. Astonishingly, Laborde advocated a strategy based on the primacy of “good taste,” which for centuries France had proudly claimed was a national monopoly: “We must oppose the incursions of bad taste in France, so as to combat the rebirth of good taste abroad.”5 But fighting for or against good taste proved a hazardous enterprise, one dominated by contradictory, subjective points of view and endless debates.

In 1855, the only certainty was the urgent necessity to look elsewhere, to go beyond the ground that had been surveyed too often, in the hope of finding fragments of foreign know-how that might literally be consumed and absorbed into Western culture. Islamic art was already attracting curious collectors, artists, and industrial designers, who experienced it as an invigorating breath of fresh air.6 The most striking manifestation of the prevailing predatory attitude was the 1860 sack of the Summer Palace outside Beijing by Anglo-French troops in the context of the Second Opium War (1856–60), waged against China by the French and the English. Four hundred precious objects from this imperial complex, including superb cloisonné enamels, arrived in Paris in February 1861 and were presented to Empress Eugénie by the victorious French forces.7 These pieces, “the likes of which had never before been seen in Europe,”8 were immediately exhibited in the Pavillon de Marsan of the Louvre, where visitors found the cloisonnés especially fascinating. Also in 1861, an official envoy from Siam—received with great pomp at Fontainebleau—presented Napoleon III with forty-eight cases full of precious objects, including some cloisonné enamels, which the empress decided to place on public display. Dazzled by the size and splendor of the entire ensemble, she decided to exhibit part of the diplomatic gift and some pillaged works in a “salon-musée” at Fontainebleau, which opened in 1863 after having been realized to her specifications.9

Christofle and the Rediscovery of Cloisonné Enamel in France

This imperial collection stimulated the curiosity of the cultivated elite about cloisonné enamels, an interest that was intensified by the universal expositions and the merciless commercial rivalry they fostered. Beginning in the 1840s, French scholars, artists, and collectors, having grown weary of antique models, proclaimed the aesthetic legitimacy and achievement of native artists and craftsmen; they were increasingly drawn to medieval champlevé enamels and especially Renaissance painted enamels. The manifest influence of such work on religious metalwork from the period attests to this.10 Similarly, the Sèvres manufactory began to produce copies of Renaissance painted enamels on copper from the Limousin region in a new enamel workshop founded and directed by Jacob Meier-Heine (1805–1879).11 Beginning in 1845 he assembled a group of experts there, notably the painter-enameler Alfred Thomsen Gobert (1822–1894), who was the mentor of Bernard-Alfred Meyer (1822–1894), who in turn mentored Claudius Popelin (1825–1892), another passionate enthusiast of the French Renaissance.12 The group also included other talented painters, such as Alexandre Frédéric de Courcy (1832–?) and Charles Lepec (1830–after 1888), all of whom took part in the feverish rediscovery of painted enamel. At the Paris Exposition Universelle of 1855, the manufactory was awarded a grand medal of honor for “enamels on iron, copper, platinum, and gold” made by Gobert, whose works emulated not only Renaissance models but also “Indian” ones.

It is not surprising, therefore, that two powerful industrial firms with considerable experience in metalworking—the bronze foundry run by Ferdinand Barbedienne and the house of Christofle, renowned for its work in silver and other precious metals13—drew inspiration from this same source. In 1863 Barbedienne was chosen to transform a large Chinese cloisonné enamel vase into a chandelier for the Musée Chinois at Fontainebleau.14 The impeccable workmanship of his firm was universally admired, a state of affairs that would continue throughout the second half of the nineteenth century, although, contrary to appearances, his technique was different from that of cloisonné, as evidenced by his large vase with mounts in the Louis XVI style.15 For several years, metalworkers had been obliged to deal with the prickly question of the absence of color in their pieces. This is evoked in an anecdote according to which Louis-Rémy Robert (1811–1882), head of the painting workshops at the Sèvres porcelain manufactory, remarked on “the blandness of silver” and “the poor decoration” of goldsmith work16 to Henri Bouilhet (1830–1910), director of the Christofle firm, at the 1855 exposition, thereby reviving an old rivalry between porcelain makers and goldsmiths.17 In fact, the competition between Barbedienne and Christofle in the realm of cloisonné began at this very exposition, where the former presented “opaque cloisonné enamels with floral decoration in the manner of the ancients”18 and the latter showed only painted or perhaps champlevé enamels not in the cloisonné technique (see chapter opener).19 Christofle did not exhibit cloisonné enamels until 1862, when the firm displayed what they called “Persian” and “Indian” pieces at the second industrial exhibition in London.20

Contemporary observers were unanimous in regarding the appearance of enamels “à cloisons rapportées” (with added metal partitions) as something akin to a miracle: “a talented enameler” named Antoine Tard (act. 1860–89), “a skilled worker endowed with perseverance and determination,” who “did not even know that cloisonnés existed,” had presented Paul Christofle and Bouilhet, the directors of the firm, with “a small metal plaque with enamel designs circumscribed by laminated copper wires, or cloisons.” Moreover, “his sample, with its incorrect and Baroque design, was completely different from Byzantine and Chinese examples.” Some contemporaries were insistent on this point: “You will find no resemblance to Japanese designs, nothing reminiscent of China, nothing imitative of Byzantine metalwork. The designer did his best to devise pretty ornaments, scatterings of florets, scrolling branches and foliage, and his creations have more in common with Persian and Indian decoration than with any other style.… So cloisonné enamel was reborn solely as a means, as a manual technique, and not as an art of imitation.”21

This discovery was made “on the eve of the Exposition Universelle of 1867,”22 at a time when the search was under way for “new things.”23 The supposed ignorance of the artist who made the rediscovery and the vision of the industrialist who grasped its implications have their roots in the myth of progress. This last could be achieved only through the fruitful collaboration of artists and manufacturers within the bosom of a sacred union of art and industry in the face of combating foreign competition. The technique used by Antoine Tard, electrotyping—a specialty of Christofle’s—would have been used only after the enamel had been fired, as a means of electrogilding the exposed edges of the wires.24

Why would the Christofle firm have been interested in moving on from the production of painted enamels to that of cloisonné enamels? Here the influence of designer Emile Reiber (1826–1893) seems to have been decisive. He was placed in charge of the composition and design workshops at Christofle in 1866, five years after having founded L’Art pour tous: Encyclopédie de l’art industriel et décoratif, a periodical with a large circulation conceived by him as a “prelude to art for all,”25 in which he encouraged artists to take up “wall decoration, domestic decoration, embellishment of the many objects requisite to interiors conducive to well being.”26 Reiber was fascinated by Chinese cloisonné enamels, and he was doubtless responsible for the firm’s enamel designers having shifted their attention from Persian and Indian models to Chinese and Japanese ones. He repeatedly visited two important exhibitions organized at the Palais de l’Industrie—the Musée Oriental, mounted in 1869 by the Union Centrale des Beaux-Arts,27 and the remarkable Henri Cernuschi collection in the Exposition des Beaux-Arts de l’Extrême Orient in 1873–74. The notes and sketches that resulted led Christofle to make many works of exceptionally high quality between 1865 and 1878, the year Reiber left the firm28: tea and coffee services, garnitures de cheminée, candelabra, vases, and jardinières, all remarkable for their subtle refinement.

The most surprising of Christofle’s initiatives was its decision to produce furniture with enamel decoration, an audacious move for a firm specializing in metal tableware. Then again, the introduction of bright colors into luxury furniture was one way to channel the firm’s exceptional technical resources in a way that might trump the competition. In fact, the celebrated silversmith François-Désiré Froment-Meurice had exhibited a sumptuous dressing table and toilette service for the duchess of Parma, designed by the architect Félix Duban (1798–1870) and decorated with enamels by Jacob Meyer-Heine (1805–79), at the London exhibition of 1851; in 1856 he had completed an “imperial cradle” designed by the architect Victor Baltard (1805–1874) and decorated with enamels by Claudius Popelin (1825–1892). For the 1873 Vienna world exhibition, Christofle produced an impressive jewelry cabinet designed by Charles Rossigneux (1818–1907) to showcase the various metalworking techniques that were a house specialty: cloisonné and translucent enamel, inlay, damascening, colored gilding, and various chemical processes for patinations. In 1874 Christofle was awarded a prestigious commission, underwritten by subscription, for a monumental bookcase celebrating the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary to be presented to the Vatican. Designed by Reiber, it was conceived to house four hundred handwritten translations of the 1854 papal bull proclaiming the miracle. The institution of this new dogma had provoked an uproar among positivists and rationalists, in the face of which Napoléon III and Eugénie decided to support this high-profile enterprise to curry favor among French Catholics. The painted enamel frieze that decorates the upper portion depicts the Triumphal March of Nations Bringing Volumes of the Translation of the Papal Bull to The Holy Father; designed by the painter Charles Lameire (1832–1910), it is in a medievalizing style quite different from the Far Eastern idiom Reiber favored in his other furniture from this period.29

Another interesting piece, also designed by Reiber in 1874, is a guéridon with a cloisonné enamel top that depicts a large pheasant shown in profile and leaning forward against a screen of flowering plums against a light ground patterned with an unending swastika pattern often used in Chinese and Japanese decorative arts. This table was shown at the universal exposition of 1878, along with two other important ensembles produced slightly later under Reiber’s direction, a pair of vase-torchères30 and a pair of encoignures, or corner cabinets.31 The vases are freely eclectic, combining Persian elements with Chinese motifs, while the encoignures are consistently of Japanese inspiration, but both pairs manifest a complete understanding of their chosen models, as well as a rare gift for arranging decorative motifs on the surfaces of furniture. Between 1867 and 1882, Christofle produced fifteen additional luxurious showpieces using various techniques with great refinement.

The Fashion for Cloisonné Becomes More Widespread

Christofle had serious competition from other renowned goldsmiths, beginning with Lucien Falize (1842–1897) and André Fernand Thesmar (1843–1912), who created masterpieces of goldsmithing and jewelry. Even so, the partnership of Émile Reiber and Antoine Tard played a key role in making cloisonné enamel fashionable. By 1878, when Reiber left the house of Christofle, the die was cast: fascination with the technique was spreading and the phrase “cloisonné enamel” was beginning to evoke a style.

Théodore Deck (1823–1891), the leading French ceramist of his time, introduced innovative “cloisonné enamels,” by which he meant “work decorated with designs in relief; the hollows are filled with transparent colored enamels that can be superimposed. This manner of fabrication made its first appearance in the West at my exhibition [in 1874, at the Union Centrale des Arts Décoratifs].”32 Deck was well acquainted with Émile Reiber, a fellow Alsatian, and the two men collaborated closely. Reiber’s work made a profound impression on Deck, who asked him to design an impressive jardinière for his display at the 1873 universal exposition in Vienna.33 For his part, Reiber published Deck’s work in his periodical L’Art pour tous. The two men thought along similar lines, and Deck reflected on the question of contour, which he treated in relief and conceived as a transposition of cloisonné wires. In 1864, Eugène Victor Collinot (1836–1882) submitted an application for a patent for his relief enamel technique in which he wrote: “The aim of this process is the production of decorative cloisonné enamels modeled in relief on faience biscuit, porcelain biscuit, and other surfaces. The phrase ‘cloisonné enamel,’ borrowed from a specialty of Chinese vases, applies to my process only insofar as it clarifies my own idea: to enclose within cloisons [partitions], which keep them distinct from one another, the relief enamels with which I decorate my faiences.”34

Between 1859 and 1883, working in collaboration with Adalbert de Beaumont, the painter Collinot published a series of print portfolios intended to facilitate the access of artists and designers to the decorative vocabularies of various foreign cultures, including Arabic, Turkish, Venetian, Hindu, Russian, Persian, Chinese, Japanese, and so forth.35

The faience manufactory at Longwy, in northeast France, later produced relief enamels in which areas of different color were not enclosed within metal wires but were surrounded by outlines executed in black pigment, to lively effect.

In 1877 the widow Rosalie Duvinage submitted a patent application for “mosaics combined with metallic cloisonné, for artistic objects and furnishings.”36 In fact, this “metallic cloisonné” was indistinguishable from a well known marquetry technique employing wood, ivory, metal, and mother of pearl that reached its apogee during the eighteenth century in luxury furniture made by the renowned ébéniste David Roentgen (1743–1807). The “invention” of the widow Duvinage amounted to the use of ivory as background, thin metal strips for the stems and branches of vegetation, and woods of various hues in the principal motif, all of which were glued to a wooden support with precision—but without any use of soldered cloisons.37 In many instances, the vegetal stems form a metallic network that helps to stabilize the composition as a whole. In other examples, such as the Duvinage cabinet in the Musée d’Orsay, there are no such vegetal stems, but thin strips of metal comparable to the wires of Chinese enamel separate and secure the pieces of ivory that constitute the ground. In all likelihood, the widow Duvinage resorted to this abusive use of the term “cloisonnement” to underscore her adherence to a striking visual aesthetic that was then much in vogue, thereby downplaying her indebtedness to a marquetry technique that had been in use for two centuries. Her use of materials—notably ivory, copper, and wood—whose colors made for strong contrasts also made her work seem analogous to the Far Eastern cloisonnés that were then so fashionable.

The case of James Tissot (1836–1902) remains exceptional. A successful painter, he also collaborated in the design of cloisonné enamels, an activity that was a byproduct of his fascination with the esoteric thought and spiritual traditions of the Far East. In the jardinière, a straightforward imitation of a Chinese object in his own collection, the landscape and figures are made legible by the use of contrasting colors. But the contours of these elements are all but obscured in the complex linear interplay of the background, in such a way that the conventional hierarchy between figure and ground is virtually nullified. Moreover, there are no straight lines in the composition, only irregular and asymmetrical curves that are difficult for the eye to follow. Tissot’s two vases demonstrate an ability to transform Sino-Japanese models into an original creation.38 The regular geometric motifs on the sides, which have no specific meaning, seem to make the surface vibrate and express the painter’s determination to manipulate the primary elements of foreground and background in a way that many of his contemporaries would never have dared do, namely to fragment the surface and geometrize the constituent forms. His impressive model for a fountainhead, entitled Fortune,39 made between 1878 and 1882, is a fulfillment of his artistic process. The figures and animals, sculpted with great exactitude, are contrasted with smooth enameled areas whose metal partitions trace small geometric motifs as well as the mysterious adage “Tout vient à point à qui sait attendre” (All things come to those who wait), translated into various languages and calligraphies.40

The Role of Design

In the face of these proliferating innovations and patent applications, as well as of an expanding market and the attendant consumerism, the warm welcome accorded cloisonné enamel and its enthusiasts cannot be explained solely by a growing fascination with things Chinese. Since 1830 the influence of art from foreign traditions had manifested itself in the West in various forms, summoned from diverse sources—including Byzantine Russia, Islam, and India—to reinvigorate a culture that sensed it was dying. But cloisonné played a special role in this drama, and its significance should not be underestimated, because of the novel and radical importance that France accorded to design.

As it happens, during the same period that Christofle, encouraged by Émile Reiber, was being seduced by cloisonné, the firm was studying another technique just as distinctive, which was damascening. This is an inlay technique whereby grooves are made in a metal surface into which other, differently colored metals are then hammered. Like cloisonné enamel, this technique emphasizes outlines and thus privileges the graphic element in decoration, including the outlines of any subordinate designs within the overall composition. In both cases, goldsmiths accustomed to working in relief with precious metals instead fashioned inlay designs that were smooth, without a trace of relief. This entailed something like a revolution in the craft of goldsmithing, a shift that Christofle was all the more willing to make because the requisite skills resembled those used by luxury jewelers, who were familiar with the techniques. Moreover, since damascening had been used in the making of armor, notably in the Near East, it responded to the current fashion for exoticism, and Christofle’s process of damascening by electrotype was consistent with the goal of industrializing traditional metalworking techniques.

The fact that the two techniques were perfected by Christofle about the same time points toward a preoccupation with dessin (which can mean both drawing and design), a word that figures prominently in French descriptions of cloisonné enamel technique: “Before beginning a cloisonné enamel, it is indispensable that the overall design [dessin] of what one wants to represent in decorative terms, whether figures, chimeras, flowers, or purely ornamental caprices, be predetermined, in both its principle outlines and its main subdivisions.” These divisions of the surface can be compared to a network that is “perfectly analogous to an elaborate ironwork fence” or to the cells of a beehive that form something like an “armature of completely irregular forms” or a “sparkling wire mesh.”41

The intersection of drawing and design was at the heart of animated debate in this period about the training of craftsmen and the quality of surface decoration. The stakes were political, for the role of drawing instruction in French primary schools was a central focus of the debate.42 Émile Reiber, who was very much involved in this question, tried to intervene in his capacity as a theorist of drawing. Shortly after he left the Christofle firm in 1878, he showed his book on primary teaching of drawing at the Exposition Universelle in Paris as an unaffiliated exhibitor.43 In its pages he argued that it was a matter of the utmost importance that everyone receive drawing instruction: “It can also be said that in just a few years, the teaching of drawing properly understood, which is to say reduced to linear outlines, will constitute, in all nations, the true basis of primary instruction.… Since writing itself is only a kind of conventional drawing … drawing alone enables one to SEE ACCURATELY.”44

Accordingly, drawing should be understood as a kind of “universal language, speaking to the eyes of all, intelligible to all, and of which we now ask that it produce results that are useful.” Reiber maintained that this language is spoken to us by works of the past, which reveal to us that “Art is ONE in all its manifestations; that all of its productions, like those of Nature, derive from a single law, that of the Combination of Lines.… The Primary Alphabet of Graphics summarizes and reconstitutes in its entirety the ancient and venerable Science—now all but lost through the use of unreflective routine practices—of the Laws of the Combination of Lines, the basis of all Creation, as much in the domain of Nature as in that of Art.”45

He goes on to announce the imminent publication of a “portable library” of the arts of dessin: “In this series, all of the artistic productions of various peoples, from antiquity to our own time, will be analyzed by means of Diagrams, or tracings of the bone structure or fundamental construction of each work.”46

This French debate unfolded in the wake of sustained reflection on analogous matters in England, where Owen Jones implicitly broached the impact of drawing on design in his book The Grammar of Ornament, published in 1856: “Proposition 7: The general forms being first cared for, these should be subdivided and ornamented by general lines; the interstices may then be filled in with ornament, which may again be subdivided and enriched for closer inspection.… Proposition 8: All ornament should be based upon a geometrical construction.… Proposition 13: Flowers or other natural objects should not be used as ornaments, but conventional representations founded upon them sufficiently suggestive to convey the intended image to the mind, without destroying the unity of the object they are employed to decorate. Universally obeyed in the best periods of Art, equally violated when Art declines.”47

But the situation in France was distinctive in that the two camps were violently opposed to one another, with one defending a linear drawing that supposedly embodied a kind of pictorial freedom and the other advocating a geometic drawing more constrained by rules inherited from the architectural tradition.

In fact, raising the dual issue of drawing and design—and thus of ornament—from the vantage of a universal language reactivated a fundamental conflict with a long history. Since the eighteenth century, the question was whether dessin should reflect “the order of the world” as willed by God since the creation (in other words, whether it should conform to the design of the Creator), or whether it could depart from this to produce decorative fantasies contrary to the “laws” of Nature, as rocaille ornament had famously done. The complex interdependency of structure and decoration was the focus of lively debate between architects and ornament designers. Some claimed that what was at stake was a choice between reason and a form of chaos expressive of “disordered minds.”48 Reproduction of the “natural order” inevitably led to the question of legibility: in other words, whether a motif’s contour evoked a form that was known and thus recognizable or, by contrast, failed to do so because there was no known comparable referent. All the French writing about cloisonné enamel techniques emphasized the fundamental role of its thin partitions in both defining the design of a scene or motif and preventing the various colors from blending, implying a logical relation between these two functions.49 But close examination reveals that these “partitions” by no means serve only to outline figures and separate colors. Quite the contrary. They often break up a single color field by adding lines that represent clothing folds, facial details, or the veins of plants. They may also serve more purely graphic ends by breaking up an otherwise uniform background color and making it “vibrate,” in which case the lines simultaneously consolidate the surface and enrich the visual effect.

This fragmentation of the surface into often irregular components calls for further comment. In Chinese cloisonné, these background interventions are schematic and simplified translations of landscape details: clouds in the sky, plum branches, the cracked ice of a frozen lake, and so forth. In Western usage, these descriptive “signs” lose their meaning and become mere geometric play. The eye perceives them, shining discreetly in the background, without becoming aware of them; rarely if ever mentioned, they effectively pass unnoticed. In many instances, these “gratuitous” background tracings become confused with the contours of “legible” motifs with clear real-world referents. The resulting dissolution of the figure-ground hierarchy enables the background to “surface”—in itself a revolutionary development, for it heralded a geometricization of decorative systems that went hand in hand with the emergence of modernism, the arrival of which it anticipated in a confused way.50

The liberation of shapes and the increasing independence of the formal treatment of figure-ground conventions were made possible by the loss of their original meanings, which had come from a distant and mysterious China. Seized as booty by armed Western invaders, the collection of cloisonné enamels from the Summer Palace outside Beijing was perhaps a crucial stimulus behind a metamorphosis that was to transform visual culture in the second half of the twentieth century: without being fully aware of it, Western artists and industrial designers gradually discovered in these objects a liberty of “writing” that effectively gave them permission to disengage from the models they had inherited from a Western tradition that had become too confining. The fundamental debate during this period about the internationalism of line, construed as the privileged sign of a universal language, was contemporaneous with the beginnings of semiology, and this at a moment when the fashion for Chinese enamels was at its peak.51 The historical confluence of these phenomena is what gives the “cloisonnés” produced in France, in whatever manner, their historical significance; in their limited but omnipresent way, these objects bear witness to a profound shift in modes of thinking that has made it possible to see this gratuitous playfulness as one of the most original responses to the urgent necessity to effect a cultural renaissance by means of a new aesthetic.

© Bard Graduate Center, Odile Nouvel-Kammerer.

1.Léon de Laborde, De l’Union des arts et de l’industrie, vol. I (Paris: Imprimerie impériale, 1856), 403–7 (“Nous sommes dans un si grand désordre d’idées, dans une telle incertitude de projets, dans ce vague qui côtoie à distance si égale l’ardeur du combat et le découragement de la lutte, que nous pouvons, selon que sera la direction, marcher à pas de géant dans la bonne voie ou nous enfoncer aussi rapidement dans la mauvaise”).

2.Ibid., 171–72 (“Nous avons vu des hommes de goût et d’imagination courber leur génie sous ce joug humiliant, et consentir à travailler dans le vieux, à ressemeler des idées usées, au lieu de créer à neuf.… Il sembla de ce moment qu’il n’y eut plus désormais d’art possible, que toute imagination était éteinte” / “domination d’eunuques tyranniques” / “affaisement de l’esprit”/ “abaissement moral”).

3.Ibid., 203–5 (“abaissement du goût par l’esprit mercantile”).

4.Ibid., 496 (“Je voudrais faire … une nation artiste, pour qu’elle ait une industrie dont le dernier ouvrier, celui qui dégrossit la matière à la première opération, ait déjà le sentiment de ce qu’elle deviendra, et lui apporte son concours intelligent dans sa petite participation à l’accomplissement de l’œuvre entière.… Je voudrais mettre du talent partout, de la pureté de goût, de la noblesse de style, et je n’en vois presque nulle part”).

5.Ibid., 398 (“Nécessité de s’opposer à l’envahissement du mauvais goût en France, pour lutter contre la renaissance du bon goût à l’étranger”).

6.See Purs Décors? Arts de l’Islam, regards du XIXe siècle, exh. cat. (Paris: Musée des Arts décoratifs, 2007), esp. the article by Rémi Labrusse, “Une traversée du malheur occidental,” 32–53.

7.See Colombe Samoyault-Verlet, “Le musée Chinois de l’Impératrice Eugénie,” L’Estampille—L’Objet d’art 479 (January 1992): 61–69.

8.G. Pauthier, “Des curiosités chinoises exposées aux Tuileries,” Gazette des Beaux-Arts 2 (1861): 27 (“comme en n’en avait pas encore vu en Europe”).

9.After a restoration campaign, the Musée Chinois at the chateau de Fontainebleau reopened to the public in 1992; an impressive collection of Asian objects is currently on display there.

10.See Daniel Alcouffe, “Les émailleurs français à l’exposition universelle de 1867,” Anthologia di Belli Arti 13116 (1980): 102–21.

11.Research carried out by this enamel workshop led to the invention of pâte-sur-pâte decoration circa 1848; the workshop closed in 1872; see The Second Empire 18521870: Art in France under Napoleon III, exh. cat. (Philadelphia: Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1978), 160ff.

12.Claudius Popelin published L’Émail des peintres (Paris: A. Lévy, 1866), a veritable manifesto advocating an alliance between high art and the “applied” or “industrial” arts.

13.I would like to thank Anne Gros, in charge of the Christofle collection, for her generous assistance.

14.I am grateful to Vincent Droguet for having provided me with a letter signed by the Administrateur du Mobilier de la Couronne, dated May 23, 1863, containing a request that the “large cloisonné enamel vase with a pointed tip to receive a candle” be sent to Paris “to be fitted with a bouquet of lights” (“grand vase en émail cloisonné, armé d’une pinte pour recevoir un cierge” / “pour y ajuster un bouquet de lumières”), Archives du château de Fontainebleau.

15.See cat. 157.

16.M. Josse, “L’art japonais à propos de l’exposition organisée par M. Gonse, Lettres de M. Josse,” Revue des arts décoratifs (1882–83): 332 (“la fadeur de l’argent, la pauvreté du decor [dans l’orfèvrerie]”).

17.From the moment of its establishment in the 18th century, silversmiths saw the Sèvres porcelain manufactory as a professional threat, thinking that it might lure away customers who were tempted by the prospect of colorful table furnishings. Indeed, porcelain makers often used forms initially developed by silversmiths as models for their table services.

18.This description (“émaux opaques cloisonnés et affleurés à la manière des Anciens”), like that of other critics writing about the exposition, is probably misleading, for the objects shown by Barbedienne do not seem to have been “cloisons rapportées” (enamels made with cloisons soldered to the body of the object) but champlevé enamels, since it is not possible to obtain partitions of the thinness and regularity necessary for cloisonné with the casting process; see Daniel Alcouffe in The Second Empire, 114–15, no. II-34. I would like to thank Olivier Tavoso, metal conservator, for his clarification of technical questions. The cloisonné enamel production of the Barbedienne firm has not yet been studied.

19.The official jury report mentions “some pieces belonging to two tea sets of identical design; one is solid silver; the other silver plate, and both are enameled. The applications [of powdered colored glass] are fine-grained, quite regular, and homogenous, and the objects could not be better made” (Rapports du Jury mixte international de l’Exposition universelle de 1855 [Paris: Imprimerie impériale, 1856], 462: “des pièces appartenant à deux thés de même modèle; l’un est en argent massif, l’autre en cuivre argenté, et tous deux sont émaillés. Les dépôts sont à grains fins, très réguliers et homogènes, et les objets sont dans les meillures conditions possible”). Some of these pieces are now in the Bethnal Green Museum of Childhood, London (now the V&A Museum of Childhood).

20.Reliable information about the enamels presented by Christofle at the 1862 universal exposition in London has proved elusive.

21.Josse, “L’art japonais,” 332 (“Vous ne découvrirez aucune ressemblance avec les dessins du Japon, aucun souvenir de la Chine, aucune imitation des orfèvreries byzantines. Le dessinateur s’était ingénié à composer de jolis ornaments, des semis de fleurettes, des enroulements de tiges et de feuilles, et ses créations avaient plus d’analogie avec les décors persans et indiens qu’avec tout autre style.… Donc l’émail cloisonné renaissait uniquement comme moyen, comme procédé de main d’œuvre et nullement comme un art d’imitation”).

22.Ibid., 332–33 (“à la veille de l’exposition universelle de 1867”). My efforts to date this “invention” by Antoine Tard more precisely have been unsuccessful.

23.Ibid. (“du nouveau”).

24.Not being a conductor of electricity, enamel is not a viable medium for electrolysis.

25.L’art pour tous. Encyclopédie de l’art industriel et décoratif (1864), introduction.

26.Marc Bascou, “Émile Reiber. Le Japon pour tous,” L’Estampille—L’Objet d’Art 13 (1988): 53–61 (“vers la décoration murale, vers l’ornamentation du foyer domestique, vers l’embellissement de cette multitude d’objets nécessaires au bien-être intérieur”).

27.Guide du visiteur au Musée oriental (Paris: Union des Beaux-Arts Appliqués à l’Industrie, 1869). Among the named lenders of cloisonné enamels are Ernest André, Barre, Baur, Dugléré, Evans, B. Jaurès, and A. de Rothschild.

28.Reiber left Christofle under duress, after having been reproached for spending too much time away from the workshops gathering information about Asian objects for his personal use.

29.The exhibition of this piece of furniture at the Exposition Universelle of 1878 was a triumph for Christofle.

30.Originally conceived as vases, these pieces were transformed into torchères by the addition of gilt-bronze bobèches for the 1889 Exposition Universelle in Paris; they were exhibited again at the 1900 exposition in Paris.

31.One of the pair is now in the Musée des Arts décoratifs, Paris (inv. 27662); the other is in a private collection.

32.Théodore Deck, La Faïence (Paris: Librairies-imprimeries réunies, 1887), 266 (“émaux cloisonné” / “un travail dont la décoration est ornée d’un trait en relief; les creux sont remplis d’émaux colorés transparents que l’on pent superposer les uns aux autres. Ce genre de fabrication a fait sa première apparition en Occident dans mon exposition de 1874, à l’Union centrale des arts décoratifs”).

33.It bore the signature E.REIBER. INVT TH DECK.1873. Deck illustrated it in his book (ibid., 195, fig. 112). See Bernard Bumpus, “Émile Reiber and the Deck Connection,” The Decorative Arts Society 27 (2008): 39–51.

34.As cited by Jacques Peiffer, Longwy: faïence & émaux, 17981998 (Metz: Serpenoise, 1998), 100 (“Ce procédé a pour objet la production décorative d’émaux cloisonnés et modelés en relief sur biscuit de faïence, de porcelaine et autres surfaces. L’expression ‘émail cloisonné,’ empruntée à une specialité de vases chinois, ne s’applique à mon procédé que pour faire comprendre mon idée: emprisonner à l’aide d’une cloison qui les empêche de se mêler les uns aux autres, les émaux en relief dont je décore mes faïences”).

35.Collinot, E[ugène-Victor] and Adalbert de Beaumont, author-engravers, Recueil de dessins pour l’art et l’industrie, issued in installments (Paris: Collinot, 1859–83).

36.Brevet dated June 4, 1877, Institut National de la propriété Industrielle, Paris (“une mosaïque combinée avec cloisonnement métallique”). Neither Christofle nor Barbedienne submitted patent applications for their cloisonnés, since they used established techniques that were quite well known.

37.Bill G. B. Pallot, “Une production étonnante. Marqueteries en cloisonné de la veuve Duvinage,” L’Estampille—L’Objet d’art 427 (September 2007): 72–82.

38.Musée des Arts décoratifs, Paris, inv. 10645a,b.

39.Musée des Arts décoratifs, Paris, inv. 14755 bis.

40.His project here should be understood within the context of the extended debate about the respective roles of sculpture and painting (the so-called paragone debate), as well as within the framework of a more recent one in which the “decorative” value of sculpture was pitted against its supposed function as a quasi-scientific transcription of reality. See Rossella Froissart-Pezone, “‘L’Esprit heureux se déroule en ornements’: Sculpture et décoration en France au temps de Rodin,” in Rodin: Les arts décoratifs, exh. cat. (Evian: Palais lumière, 2009), 52–71.

41.Philippe Burty, Les Émaux cloisonnés anciens et modernes (Paris: Martz, 1868), 14–16, 69 (“Avant de commencer un émail cloisonné, il est indispensable que le dessin général de ce que l’on veut représenter décorativement, personnages, chimères, fleurs ou caprice ornemental pur, soit bien arrêté dans la silhouette générale et dans les principales divisions” / “absolument analogue à ce qu’est en massif une grille de fer ouvragée” / “armature mais de formes tout à fait irrégulières” / “treillis éclatant”). Burty concludes by citing Eugène Delacroix on the irregularity of lines: “Some lines are monstrous: straight lines, irregular serpentine lines, and above all two parallel lines. When man establishes them, the elements consume them. Regular lines exist only in the mind of man. Hence the charm of things that are old and ruined: ruination brings objects closer to Nature” (“II y a des lignes qui sont un monstre: la droite, la serpentine irrégulière, surtout deux parallèles. Quand l’homme les établit, les éléments les rongent. Les lignes régulières ne sont que dans le cerveau de l’homme. De là le charme des choses anciennes & ruinées: la ruine rapproche l’objet de la Nature”).

42.See Renaud d’Enfert, L’enseignement du dessin en France: figure humaine et dessin géometrique (17501850) (Paris: Belin, ca. 2003).

43.Émile Reiber, L’Enseignement primaire du dessin, à l’Exposition universelle de 1878. L’alphabet de la graphique primaire, base préliminaire de l’enseignement des arts du dessin (Paris: the author, 1878). Reiber exhibited in the French section, Group II, class 6.

44.Ibid., 6 (“on peut aussi dire qu’avant peu d’années, l’Enseignement bien entendu du Dessin, c’est-à-dire réduit aux Tracés linéaires, formera, chez toutes les Nations, la véritable base de l’Instruction primaire.… L’écriture elle-même n’étant qu’un dessin conventionnel … le dessin seul permet de VOIR JUSTE.”

45.Ibid., pp. 7–8 (“une langue universelle, parlant à tous les yeux, intelligible pour tous, et à laquelle on demande maintenant des résultats utiles.” / “l’Art est UN dans toutes ses manifestations; que toutes ses productions dérivent, comme celles de la Nature, d’une même Loi, celle de la Combinaison des LignesL’Alphabet de la graphique

primaire résume et reconstitue de toutes pièces cette antique et vénérable Science (aujourd’hui presque totalement perdue par l’usage de pratiques inconscientes routinières) des Lois de la Combinaison des Lignes, base de toute Création, tant dans le domaine de la Nature que dans celui de l’Art”).

46.Ibid., 8 (“Dans cette suite de Fascicules, toutes les productions artistiques des divers peuples, depuis l’antiquité jusqu’à nos jours, sont analysées au moyen des Diagrammes ou tracés graphiques de l’ossature, de la construction primordiale de chaque œuvre”). In 1879, Reiber delivered a lecture at the Société pour l’Instruction éleméntaire about the teaching of drawing as writing (“Le Dessin enseigné comme l’écriture”).

47.Owen Jones, The Grammar of Ornament (London, 1856), n.p.

48.On this subject see Rossella Froissart-Pezone, “Théories de l’ornement en France au tournant du XIXe siècle: l’abstraction entre nature et géometrie,” Ligeia, Dossier sur l’Art et Abstraction, year 22 (2009): 47–63. The phrase dérèglement des esprits comes from Jean-Bernard, l’Abbé Le Blanc, Lettres d’un Français, concernant le gouvernement, la politique et les moeurs des Anglais et des Français 17371744, vol. 2 (The Hague, 1745), 41–52, letter 36; reprinted in Svend Eriksen, Early Neo-classicism in France (London: Faber & Faber, 1974), 226–29.

49.See esp. Burty, Les Émaux cloisonnés.

50.The same period saw the development of several theories advocating the use of geometry in the early stages of drawing instruction. See Froissart-Pezone, “Théories de l’ornement.

51.The word sémiologie appears in Émile Littré’s revision of the medical dictionary by Pierre-Hubert Nysten, Dictionnaire de médécine, de chirurgerie, de pharmacie, des sciences accessoires et de l’art vétérinaire, 10th ed. (Paris: J.-B. Ballière, 1855). Ferdinand de Saussure, the founding father of modern semiotics, published his first contribution to this nascent field—and the only full-length work whose publication he oversaw himself—in 1878, having delivered some of its contents the previous year at the Société de linguistique de Paris (Mémoire sur le système primitif des voyelles dans les langues indoeuropéennes [Leipzig: Teubner, 1878]).