A Brief History of Limoges and Artistry of Limoges Boxes
Although today Limoges, France is most famous for its fine porcelain, the art-related history of Limoges began with champleve enamel work in the 12th century, during which time boxes and other decorative items were exquisitely crafted in intricate designs in enamel. This art form in Limoges developed into painted enamel and later into painted porcelain.
The earliest examples of decorated porcelain were created in China in the second century B.C. In 1520, finished porcelain products were first imported to Europe and by 1712 the manufacturing process was begun in Europe. But, due to the shortage of the key ingredient for fine porcelain - "Kaolin" (white clay) - fine production of pure white porcelain was not yet possible in the west.
In 1768, a very large deposit of the finest Kaolin in Europe was discovered near the town of Limoges, France. Limoges was an established trading and manufacturing center in the region. The abundant forests provided wood for the porcelain firing kilns and the Vienne river supplied plentiful water and transportation. These key factors as well as the availability of skilled local artisans, attracted designers and entrepreneurs from throughout Europe who established their individual manufacturing workshops "ateliers" in Limoges. Some of these ateliers became world famous trademarks which are revered to this day. Today, Limoges porcelain boxes are manufactured in the same manner in small workshops and ateliers in the Limoges region.
To the modern collector, Limoges boxes are enjoyed as beautiful objects of exquisite craftsmanship. Originally, however, they were used as snuffboxes, and considered almost an integral part of ones wardrobe, to be carried in ones pocket like a fancy cigarette case. When snuff-taking lost its popularity, the boxes lost their original purpose. In the early twentieth century, they were commonly used as pillboxes. They may still be used for such purposes. Today, Limoges boxes are cherished by collectors for their fabulous detail, creative designs and sophistication. The artistry of Limoges boxes evoke the same type of popular interest today as when they were first created in the 1700s.
To learn more about Limoges boxes, see What Is A Limoges Box? - Collecting Limoges Boxes 101 and Limoges Boxes Historically Collected by European Royalty