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Sèvres: The Living Forms of Ceramics

Published on , by Oscar Duboÿ

After originating at the Musée National Adrien-Dubouché in Limoges three years ago, this show is coming to Sèvres in its most complete version.

Jean Girel (b. 1947), Box with Frogs, 2013, hard-paste porcelain, 15 x 34 cm. Limoges,... Sèvres: The Living Forms of Ceramics
Jean Girel (b. 1947), Box with Frogs, 2013, hard-paste porcelain, 15 x 34 cm. Limoges, Musée National Adrien-Dubouché.
RMN-Grand Palais (Limoges, Musée National Adrien-Dubouché) © Mathieu Rabeau

This rich ceramics exhibition features nature’s organic shapes spanning the period from the Renaissance to the present day. Before the invention of photography, nothing could be more lifelike than sculpture. Hence the choice of opening the show with a series of large enameled dishes by Bernard Palissy (c.1510 - c.1589), an almost tutelar figure, where every detail of the teeming wildlife is painstakingly depicted in the slightest relief, like a trompe-l'oeil of a dish that looks good enough to eat. Nearly five centuries later, Jean Girel's beautiful work is another, more sensory version of naturalism, interpreted here by the epidermal rendering of the hard porcelain depicting reptiles or amphibians. The confrontation between past and present also evokes the human, illustrated by the various versions of the legendary bowl molded on the breast of Queen Marie Antoinette and a fascinating piece by Giuseppe Penone, a kind of mise en abyme where the hand of man shines by its absence, or rather by its imprint, left on the material. The figurative gradually gives way to the abstract: the show moves from the Rococo style to an impressive series of Art Nouveau vases and Claire Lindner’s contemporary creations featuring lush vegetation. Meanwhile, Darwin and biomorphism have come and gone. Since ceramics change with the times, the invention of the microscope has given creators the idea of depicting the most vital organs, mimicking their colors with oxblood red and joining forces with science to design prostheses. Ceramics are definitely alive.

“Formes vivantes” (“Living Forms”),
Musée National de Céramique, Sèvres, France.
Until May 7, 2023.
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