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John Whitehead

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Changing Times, New Techniques: Sèvres Porcelain 1770 -1850

"Louis XVI Sèvres: The Neoclassical Revival at the Royal Porcelain Factory 1770-1800"

"The Sèvres Porcelain Factory in the First Half of the Nineteenth Century"

April Seminar

A view of Louis XVI’s library at Versailles with, on the Jean-Henri Riesener commode, a pair of Sèvres biscuit busts of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette from a model by Louis-Simon Boizot, c. 1780, and a garniture of Sèvres ‘vases à bandeau’ of 1781 purchased by Madame Adélaïde. Versailles.

The 2024 CCC Seminar will take place on

Monday, April 8, 2024, 1:00 - 4:00 pm ET

via Zoom.


John Whitehead will present Changing Times, New Techniques: Sèvres Porcelain 1770-1850, in two lectures, with a short break between the two and an opportunity to ask questions and make comments. 


The Seminar will begin with a talk on "Louis XVI Sèvres: The Neoclassical Revival at the Royal Porcelain Factory 1770-1800," followed by a talk on "The Sèvres Porcelain Factory in the First Half of the Nineteenth Century."  Attendees will then have an opportunity to ask questions and all who register for the Seminar will receive a link to the recordings of the lectures.


Prices for the seminar are as follows:


CCC Members:  $ 35 


Seminar PLUS Membership through June '24: $ 75


Non-member Seminar Only: $ 45


John Whitehead is a dealer, writer and lecturer specializing in French eighteenth-century interior decoration and works of art, with an emphasis on Sèvres porcelain.

He is best known for his 1992 book, The French Interior in the Eighteenth Century, which after many years remains the most comprehensive publication on the subject. His two books on Sèvres porcelain of the eighteenth century, commissioned by the Sèvres factory and museum, were published in 2011. In addition, he has written numerous articles for specialist periodicals on various aspects of French eighteenth-century art, including Sèvres porcelain, the marchands-merciers (dealers in works of art) of eighteenth-century Paris, the use of Japanese lacquer in French furniture and decorative arts, the lacquer collections of William Beckford (1760-1844) and the decoration, furnishing and use of rooms at this period.

John Whitehead has served as a member of the Council of the Furniture History Society and is currently a member of the Committee of the French Porcelain Society, with responsibility as co-editor of the society's biennial Journal.

He is currently working on several book projects, including one about the exchange of diplomatic gifts between France and the Ottoman Empire in the eighteenth century and another on eighteenth-century Sèvres porcelain with bird decoration.

In 2010 he was made an officier of the French Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in recognition of services to the Arts.

In 2014 he was elected a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London.

Lecture 1:

“Louis XVI Sèvres: The Neoclassical Revival at the Royal Porcelain Factory 1770-1800”


It couldn’t have been a happier coincidence: the discovery of hard paste and the neoclassical revival together drew Sèvres to new heights in the 1770s and '80s. But this period has not been as appreciated and well-known as the rococo, so that we still need to be reminded about its masterpieces, which are possessed of a novel aesthetic matching the other decorative arts of the time. We will look at some of the royal orders, marchand-mercier pieces, and, to finish, at the 1790s, the troubled time of the Revolution.

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‘La Rosière de Salency,’ Sèvres hard-paste biscuit group from the model by Louis-Simon Boizot, 1776. Height 15¾ in. (40 cm.)  Musée National de Céramique, Sèvres.  (Inv. MNC 27953)


Lecture 2:

“The Sèvres Porcelain Factory in the First Half of the Nineteenth Century”


As a result of the French Revolution, Sèvres was brought to its knees and began to recover only after the appointment in 1800 of the 30-year-old scientist, Alexandre Brongniart (1770-1847), as Director of the manufactory. During his 47-year tenure, he turned the factory back into the most successful porcelain manufacturer in Europe, producing hugely lavish vases, dinner and tea services, as well as a variety of other pieces, initially in an elegant neoclassical style, but increasingly influenced by the eclectic tastes of the period, with decoration applied by a team of the best available artists. Brongniart was a true polymath who also founded the ceramics museum at Sèvres, and taught university classes in mineralogy, botany and zoology, while defending Sèvres through a number of political regime changes.

Sèvres vase Adélaïde, painted by Leloy, 1840-44. Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

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