Quimper Factory Marks


Our in-box is typically filled with numerous questions about how to identify and date your pieces. We love to help, but sometimes you want an answer right away and, unfortunately, your message arrived while we're off on one of our France Shop 'n' Tours or knee-deep in butter as we attempt to make a real kouigh aman in our dinky kitchen, or for some reason or another are unable to get back to you in a timely manner. So this link will describe a sampling of the various markings that were used by the Quimper potteries...sort of a self-help guide.

And, of course, should you still have questions, feel free to ask!

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Quimper Factory Marks

This is intended to serve as a method of identifying the marks and perhaps date your pieces...it is not a method for assigning a monetary value. That's because Quimper is a hand-painted art pottery and therefore there are individualities that have an effect on the value of a specific piece. More importantly, just because one piece of Quimper pottery is older than another does not automatically guarantee a higher value for the older example. There are newer pieces that are artistically superior to earlier examples and thus the newer piece has a higher value.

Note that copies and fake pieces of Quimper often have markings that can pass as genuine, but for the sake of this article, we'll assume that the pieces are genuine, vintage Quimper...examples made in the town of Quimper sometime between 1708 and today. 

Regular readers of www.oldquimper.com are all too familiar with my rantings about the marks on a piece of Quimper pottery being just about the least effective method of evaluation.

Case in point:

Fact: the Henriot factory went out of business in 1968. 

Reality: genuine pieces of Quimper pottery were produced using the Henriot mark for many, many years beyond 1968.

Confused? The explanation is because when the Henriot factory went out of business, the HB factory purchased the rights to their molds, designs, and marks and reorganized as Les Faïenceries de Quimper. To avoid confusing the existing customers of both enterprises, separate work areas and production lines were established and maintained.

The personnel working with the former Henriot designs marked their production "Henriot Quimper" with a number for the specific form...the "f" number...and a number for the particular decoration...the "d" number.

Those working with HB designs marked their pieces "HB Quimper" with the appropriate "f" and "d" numbers. This practice continued throughout the time that the "blended company" was in business, i.e. from 1968 to 1983.

Further confusion comes from "re-issues" of earlier designs produced by the firm known as the Société Nouvelle des Faïenceries de Quimper (1984-2003). These pieces were not issued with their customary mark that reads "HB-Henriot", but rather the mark that had been on the original piece that was being re-created. Just like one musician, e.g. Michael Jackson, can own the rights to the songs of another musician, e.g. The Beatles, that factory owned the rights to use the previous markings and designs used at Porquier, Henriot, Keraluc, etc.

To illustrate:

We photographed this wonderful array of new pieces of Quimper faïence in a shop in Quimper...

...enlarging the photograph of the jardinière in the center allows you to see that it is marked "Henriot Quimper" in the décor to the right of the petit breton even though it was of recent production...made years after the Henriot factory went out of business.

So, you see, unlike other pottery where the mark tells you precisely where and when the object was produced, you should not rely solely on the markings on a piece of Quimper pottery for establishing age. Instead you should concentrate on the colors of the glaze and clay...the crisp whites of the pieces in the photograph taken in the store are an indication that the pieces are from a later era of production.

That said, here are some general guidelines for understanding the many marks used over the years by the various factories that worked in Quimper:

While earlier grès (stoneware) was dutifully marked because of  government regulations, for the most part Quimper pottery was not systematically marked until around 1870.

In most cases, the mark, like the piece itself, was hand-painted and is therefore as unique as the decoration.

Where the piece is signed is not a guaranteed indication of age. Some newer examples are signed on the front, some older pieces are signed on the back, still others are signed both front and back.

The addition of the designation "Quimper" does not automatically indicate a piece that was made after 1904. Although both of the following marks include the word "Quimper", the pieces on which the marks are found were made about 120 years apart...

...the piece above dates from circa 1860...

...while this mark is on a piece from circa 1980.

The 1904 demarcation is an outdated supposition that was based on an old and  erroneous interpretation of information. The practice of consistantly adding the designation "Quimper" had its beginnings in the last quarter of the nineteenth century and was a result of the commercial success of the scenes bretonnes decorations.

Potteries from other areas quickly jumped on the band wagon and the market was soon inondated with petit bretons from places far beyond the limits of Quimper...far beyond the borders of Brittany.

We know how the 1904 error was propagated. After copyright lawsuits were inititated against the Pouplard pottery in Malicorne, the potteries in Quimper took protective measures, including finally getting around to registering their respective marks. Marks that they had been using for years and years. The right to use the place of origin in a mark was in practice in France for many years and was the subject of an 1824 national law...a law that was upheld in a ruling in Quimper in 1904. The practice did not initiate in 1904, it was merely tested in court on that date.

Those who insist on dating by the marks should disregard any notion of 1904...proof in point are the pieces of Camille Moreau, a painter at the Porquier factory trained by Alfred Beau. In 1891, Moreau was lured to leave his employ at the Porquier factory by Jules Henriot, who wanted him to work in faïence at his rival factory, located a stone's throw up the road. Note that prior to that date, Henriot's factory did not produce faïence...only grès. Moreau was a marvelous painter and it is his work that adorns the tableservice created to celebrate the wedding of Jules Henriot to Anne-Marie Riou on February 6, 1893. His pieces are marked with a distinctive underline under the HR. It is well-documented that Moreau only worked as a pottery painter until 1895...yet his pieces are marked with the Quimper notation...a notation that, as you can see, had its beginnings well before 1904.

After World War I, both the HB factory and the Henriot factory added the word "France", but only on pieces that were destined for export. Prior to that, a paper label was used to designate exported goods...a label that has undoubtedly  been washed off by now.

Examples stamped or marked "Fait Main" or "Décor Entièrement à la Main" (indicating they were decorated by hand) were produced after World War II.

Speaking of paper labels, in the 1980s this label was used on pieces that were re-issued using vintage patterns...in many cases, the painted design included the earlier markings that were in effect for the original motif. When the label was removed, if one were to rely solely on the markings for establishing the date of production, it might appear to be an actual vintage piece.

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