As soon as visitors arrive in the courtyard, even before they enter the building, they are welcomed by a first majestic piece of work created by Haguiko and Jean-Pierre Viot. A tall stele, made of white concrete, is covered with some 600 multi-coloured enamelled porcelain bowls. I'm at the entrance of the Adrien Dubouché National Museum – Cité de la céramique at the very heart of the city of Limoges. Here, in this space, the capital of Limousin has been promoting this heritage related to its history and its region for almost two centuries. The site, set up through donations and through the work of its main patron and former director – after whom the museum is named –, now boasts a collection of over 18,000 works, from Antiquity to the 19th century, including pieces from China, Italy and Germany. Around 5,000 pieces are showcased.
A collection covering every era and origin
To begin my journey through this fascinating gigantic, hybrid space, embracing the historic Art Deco building and an extension designed in glass and metal structures, I head for the mezzanine. Here, the phases of the porcelain creation process are detailed to better understand this know-how: choice of materials, modelling, decoration and, above all, firing. Here, we discover that porcelain is directly linked to the mastery of thermal kilns and their advancement. From 700°C for firing earthenware to 1,380°C for hard porcelain like that of Limoges, and even up to 2,000°C for special products… , in just a simple description, the designation "fired arts" takes on its full meaning. I continue my visit with the collections – the busts of all the Presidents of the 3rd French Republic, rather surprising, is a must-see on the first floor. Antiquity, Middle Ages, Renaissance, 17th century, through to Art Deco, Art Nouveau… the various periods follow on from each other, as do the masterpieces. On the third floor, really beautiful pieces created in the porcelain manufactures in Limoges, are presented, along with purely artistic contemporary works and objects for household use which have now become museum pieces. Proof that it's timeless and that it''s forever renewing itself.
To better grasp the steps of the porcelain-making process, head over to the Musée du Four des Casseaux, the kiln museum, to see a historic porcelain kiln, now listed as a historic monument, and its hands-on approach.