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Antique French "La Peinture" Plate

Antique French "La Peinture" Plate

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Recently discovered at market in Paris, this rare French "La Peinture" talking plate offers a playful commentary on one of France’s most influential artists - Gaspard-Félix Tournachon. A contemporary and close friend of bohemian writers, artists, composers and philosophers alike, Tournachon - given the nickname Tournader (and later Nadar) by his friends, was fully immersed at the intersection of art and science in late 19th century Paris.

Alternately artist, journalist, photography, inventor, showman and adventurer, Nadar began an career as a caricaturist before moving on to photography.  His studio became a haven for the most well-known celebrities of the day, who turned to Nadar for a cutting-edge, naturalistic portrait style, as well his use of artistically creative lighting as the first studio to utilize artificial light in photography. In 1858 Nadar's fascination with photography met his obsession with air balloon technology as he pioneered the art of aerial photography over the skies of Paris.

After years of hitching a ride to capture grand aerial shots, Nadar commissioned the world's largest hot air balloon, his own 196-foot floating ship named Le Géant.  He traveled extensively (and ostentatiously) with as many as a dozen passengers at one time, becoming a close confidante of Jules Verne and later the inspiration for the writer's Five Weeks in a Balloon and From The Earth to The Moon.

As his own celebrity grew, Nadar continued to support and engage in other emerging movements, even lending his studio to a group of painters for what would become the first exhibition of the Impressionists. He also served France as a true patriot during the 1870-71 Siege of Paris, utilizing Le Géant in numerous balloon crossings transporting mail to and from the isolated city - the world's first air mail service.

Produced by the venerable Lunéville potters, "La Peinture" is a wonderful example of talking plates at their best. Sometimes humorous, sometimes designed to present teachable moments or commentary that would have been found amusing to French people in the 19th century, talking plates can offer unique insight into popular culture at a specific moment in time.

Featuring three artists at work aloft runaway balloons, seemingly oblivious to the repercussions of their folly, the light-hearted plate includes the words Fin de Siècle (End of the Century) and La Peinture (The Art of Painting). Hot air balloons glide among clouds in the background, while Paris landmarks like one of the city's bridges as well as Les Invalides are visible below. Showing sharp detail in clear, soft tones, this storied piece of history is sure to inspire your own flights of fancy, as well as the artist, visionary or dreamer in your heart.


Strictly one-of-a-kind and subject to prior sale. In very good antique condition. Handwash only. 8" in diameter.

Learn More About French "Talking Plates"

Inspired by the French love of humor, Assiettes Parlantes, or “talking plates” are French transferware plates with French sayings on them. Some of the most collectible illustrate the life of a French hero or heroine, such as the plates depicting Napoleon or Jeanne d’Arc.

Often illustrating famous French battles or wars, plates like this would give a village patriot a “memory boost" about a battle or war he was a part of, or proud of. These historical plates, recorded France’s most illustrious wars. Collecting plates that portrayed France in its glory days on the battle fields around the world became quite popular, and true infatuation for collecting historical faience plates swept over 19th century France.

Yet other Assiettes Parlantes illustrate the months of the year, or seasons, professions; anything that had appeal to the French buying public in the mid to late 1800’s can be found on these sets of plates. Some of the plates have a play on words, or jeux de mots. Witty and at times a bit harsh or even risqué, each illustrates a funny saying, joke or sly humor that the French found amusing.

While these are called “fine”, this refers to the ability of the transfer process to replicate finely drawn images in clear detail on the pottery, not that they are of fine quality porcelain on par with Limoges, for example. French potteries that made the parlantes plates could produce a vast amount of plates per day, with each worker able to complete 200 or more plates daily. Potteries creating commemorative dish ware were in full production by the 1860’s and some of the most famous French producers of this type of pottery include Gien, Creil et Montage, Keller et Guerin, Choisy-le-Roi, Digoin and Sarreguemines.

These plates are the darlings of designers and collectors alike, as they are wonderful to display in a hutch, hang on the wall flanking an antique French mirror, or placed on stands on a mantel.

(Courtesy of Frenchgardenhouse.com)

Learn More About Luneville Faience

In 1728 Jacques Chambrette established the first earthenware factory in the town of Lunéville, along the river Meuse in the Lorraine region of Eastern France. As a result of its economic and artistic success, the factory was awarded the status of Manufacture Royale de Fayence by the Ducs of Lorraine in 1749.

At the time, the Lunéville manufacture was one of the main rivals of the expanding English and German ceramics centers and Chambrette managed to successfully export his wares throughout Europe.

In 1786 Sébastien Keller bought Luneville from the Chambrette family and for the next 137 years, the Keller family controlled the company. About 1832, Sébastien Keller's son formed a partnership with his brother-in-law Guérin to give birth to the mark K&G (or KG) from the names Keller and Guérin.

By 1900, there were around 1,100 employees and the factory's products had a worldwide reputation. The Lunéville artisans were inspired by their surroundings; pieces were decorated with flowers, insects, real and fictitious animals and even exotic figures.

Times and fortunes change and by 1981, the studios of Luneville Faience were shuttered with their long and rich history coming to an end. 

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