A Guide to Limoges China: History, Prices & Its Enduring Appeal

Limoges porcelain cup and saucer A Seventy-nine piece set of A. Raynaud and Cie Gilt porcelain dinner service in the “Ceralene Ambassador Gold” pattern. Limoges, France, circa 1986-1996. Sold for $800 via Simpson Galleries (February 2019).

Among the many makers of porcelain, the name Limoges instantly conjures elegant and sophisticated decorative art. Limoges china is some of the most coveted decorative art to emerge from France, in part because it refers not to one single maker, but rather to the array of hard-paste factories that thrived in the eponymous town centuries ago. Renowned for their diversity of designs and versatility in pairings, Limoges china patterns continue to capture the attention of avid collectors who are cultivating collections from classic to contemporary.

The History of Limoges China

Limoges china dates back to the late 18th century, when a fortuitous discovery of kaolin clay changed the course of the region’s history. This was an essential ingredient for making hard-paste porcelain, which is fired at remarkably high temperatures and results in a luminous finish that is ideal for decoration. Capitalizing on the availability of kaolin clay, small-production porcelain factories opened in the surrounding area. It was the arrival of King Louis XIV of France in 1781, however — who purchased one of the local factories in order to make porcelain wares for his court — that catapulted Limoges porcelain’s acclaim.

The front and back of a 1938 Haviland Limoges Presidential plate for Franklin D. Roosevelt

Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1938 Presentation Plate. 9 1/2″ dinner plate with gold monogram of “FDR,” inscribed “Theodore Haviland Limoges France.” Sold for $1,625 via Heritage Auctions (November 2014).

As the years progressed, the Limoges-area factories multiplied, and by the 19th century Limoges china was garnering international clientele. The Haviland porcelain factory, which opened near Limoges the early 1840s, became the chief supplier of porcelain services for the office of the President of the United States, as their pieces signaled both luxury and refinement in official state settings. The success of Limoges porcelain reached new heights in the early 20th century when Limoges pieces were exhibited at the 1925 Paris International Exhibition of Decorative Art. The great acclaim for Limoges wares instantly secured the region’s status as one of the best locales for porcelain production.

Today, Limoges remains a vibrant region for porcelain production and continues to signify quality and expert craftsmanship. Beyond these aspects, Limoges has also continued to hold its celebrity in the ceramics world due in part to a variety of more recent design and artistic collaborators. From the hand-painted works by Austrian-American artist Franz Bischoff to the encapsulation of contemporary artists from the likes of Jeff Koons and Yayoi Kusama, Limoges porcelain producers have stayed on the cutting edge of design and have kept elegant porcelain relevant throughout a number of cultural transformations.

Savvy Limoges china collectors will know that some Limoges porcelain values can vary dramatically depending on the rarity or unique qualities of a piece. This article offers a snapshot of just some of the many wares available in the market today — and the range of prices they fetch at auction.

Limoges China Dinner Services

One of the richest areas of Limoges’ production was in the form of lavish dinner services. Since the first royal services ordered by French King Louis XIV in the 18th century, Limoges factories conjured several noteworthy regal sets, including the “Imperatrice Eugenie” service for the Empress Eugenie in the 1860s and the “Chinoiserie” service created for Queen Elizabeth II of England’s state visit to France in 1957. That state splendor spread to the United States in the 19th century, when American businessman David Haviland opened the Haviland factory in Limoges in order to encourage the export of French porcelain to the United States. Haviland’s investment proved fruitful: Haviland Limoges porcelain became the prime producer of some of the most iconic presidential services in U.S. history.

Four examples of Limoges porcelain dinner services

Image 1: A Limoges (Raynaud) Porcelain Coral-Ground Part Dinner Service
Christie’s, New York, NY (July 2016)
Estimate: $5,000-$7,000
Price Realized: $11,875

Image 2: Bernardaud Gilt and Cobalt Enamel Decorated Porcelain Dinner Service in the “Vergennes” Pattern, Limoges, France, late 20th Century
Simpson Galleries, Houston, TX (October 2018)
Estimate: $2,000 – $3,000
Price Realized: $4,000

Image 3: Jean Pouyat Limoges Partial Dinner Service
New Orleans Auction Galleries, New Orleans, LA (December 2017)
Estimate: $700 – $1,000
Price Realized: $3,250

Image 4: A Bernardaud Limoges France “Beaugency” Bleu de Roi and Gilt Decorated Porcelain Dinner Service
Mallams, Abingdon, United Kingdom (March 2018)
Estimate: £400 – £600
Price Realized: £1,500

Limoges Porcelain Boxes and Plaques

Beyond the elegant dinner services derived from the region, Limoges porcelain makers also specialized in small decorative objects. For example, they conjured miniature painted porcelain plaques that celebrated scenes from classical history and mythology. Though smaller in size, Limoges trinket boxes — also known as bonbonnieres — are also a celebrated part of Limoges’ legacy. These diminutive containers derived from the snuff box tradition but later became a storage space for little sweets or other bibelots.

Four Limoges porcelain boxes

Image 1: Massive French Limoges Enameled Porcelain Plaque
Michaan’s Auctions, Alameda, CA (December 2010)
Estimate: $5,000-$7,000
Realized Price: $5,850

Image 2: A Limoges Art Nouveau Porcelain Box
Leslie Hindman Auctioneers, Chicago, IL (February 2015)
Estimate: $150-$250
Price Realized: $1,625

Image 3: French box with Limoges porcelain plaques and “champlevé” enamelled bronze mountings, circa 1880
Balclis, Barcelona, Spain (December 2017)
Estimate: €750 – €1,000
Price Realized: €750

Image 4: Bonbonniere, Limoges for Patek Philippe
APR 57, Central Hong Kong, Hong Kong (February 2011)
Estimate: HKD5,000-HKD7,000
Price Realized: HKD11,875

Limoges Pieces Featuring Franz Bischoff

When it comes to individual artists who worked with Limoges porcelain, one of the most coveted creators was Franz Bischoff (1864-1929), an Austrian artist who moved to the United States and developed a fascinating career as a painter of landscapes and porcelain. Bischoff’s landscapes often celebrated the sweeping grandeur of American vistas, while his porcelain pieces, which typically depicted delicate flower blossoms set against ethereal washes of rich color, revealed his incredibly meticulous detail work.

Four Limoges porcelain works by Franz Bischoff

Image 1: Franz A. Bischoff (1865-1929 Arroyo Seco, CA)
John Moran Auctioneers, Pasadena, CA (October 2009)
Estimate: $8,000-$12,000
Price Realized: $16,100

Image 2: A Limoges Porcelain Vase Painted by Franz Bischoff
Christie’s, New York, NY (April 2012)
Estimate: $6,000 – $8,000
Price Realized: $6,000

Image 3: Franz Arthur Bischoff Limoges Baluster vase with pink and white hydrangeas
Bonham’s, Los Angeles, CA (August 2017)
Estimate: $4,000 – $6,000
Price Realized: $5,000

Image 4: Franz Arthur Bischoff, “A Plate of Roses,” painted on Limoges porcelain
Simpson Galleries, Houston, TX (May 2018)
Estimate: $4,000 – $6,000
Price Realized: $4,250

Limoges Porcelain in Contemporary Art

The legacy of Limoges lives on into the twenty-first century in part thanks to this rich network of collaborations and artists whose works have been transformed through the Limoges lens. From Pop Art icon Roy Lichtenstein to contemporary masters from Jeff Koons to Cindy Sherman, Limoges factories have continued to produce perfect porcelain pieces while bringing the art of porcelain into the modern age.

Image 1: Roy Lichtenstein, Landscape Mobile (Limoges), 1991
Leslie Hindman Auctioneers, Chicago, IL (September 2014)
Estimate: $10,000-$15,000
Price Realized: $68,500

Image 2: Jeff Koons, Balloon Swan (Yellow); Balloon Monkey (Blue); and Balloon Rabbit (Red), 2017
Phillips, New York, NY (October 2008)
Estimate: $25,000-$35,000
Price Realized: $32,000

Image 3: Yayoi Kusama
Phillips, New York, NY (October 2012)
Estimate: $5,000-$7,000
Price Realized: $16,250

Image 4: Cindy Sherman, Madame de Pompadour (nee Poisson), porcelain tureen and platter, 1990, manufactured by Limoges, France
Sotheby’s, New York, NY (November 2006)
Estimate: $3,000-$4,000
Price Realized: $14,400

Image 5: Sonia Delaunay for Artcurial, a large Limoges vase c. 1988
Rosebery’s, West Norwood, United Kingdom (December 2018)
Estimate: £400 – £600
Price Realized: £420

Image 6: Sonia Delaunay for Artcurial, a Limoges charger c. 1980
Rosebery’s, West Norwood, United Kingdom (December 2018)
Estimate: £300 – £500
Price Realized: £250

Limoges has become a perennial favorite of porcelain collectors thanks to its combination of breathtaking craftsmanship and attention to popular trends in art and design. Whether a fan of contemporary or classical forms, Limoges offers a style for everyone, a universal appeal that comes tied to an impressively long history of production.

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