American Painted Porcelain

    Way back when, in the mid 1870's the Aesthetic Movement was influencing many Americans into making everyday utilitarian items into usable art. Fine painted porcelain had long been a symbol of status and wealth for many families in Europe. Naturally, these items were very expensive to import. Unpainted porcelain blanks called "whiteware" were not. Americans found that with the use of special "mineral paints", they could afford the same status symbols of their European counterparts.

    Before the turn of the century, women were the main producers of American Painted Porcelain. This is due to the fact that it was extremely time consuming and not very profitable. Each color had to be painted and then fired in a kiln before the next could be applied. Often a piece went through more than 9 or 10 firings! If you didn't have your own kiln, and most people did not, you had to ship your items to a studio to be fired each time!

    In the early 1900's, many companies started offering decals that could be transferred onto whiteware. The use of decals enabled a person to just fill in areas of color instead of actually having to paint a design. This made it much less time consuming and therefore more profitable. It also allowed anyone, skilled or not, to do it. Porcelain is considered hand decorated not hand painted if a decal is used. You can tell if a decal was used by looking for the many little dots that make up the design. Hand painted pieces will not have the dots.

    The blanks were imported in large quantities from manufacturers in Bavaria, Prussia, and Limoges and stockpiled for many years. This makes dating American Painted Porcelain a difficult task. So when choosing a piece, let the quality of the artwork and beauty of the design be your guide. And remember, that even though that plate may say Limoges, France or Bavaria, Germany on the back, it may have been hand painted in the good ol' USA. 

Imagine your holiday table set with these beautiful dishes!