The Bracquemond-Rousseau Table Service of 1866

Japoniste Ceramics and the Realignment of Medium Hierarchies in Nineteenth-Century French Art

Sonia Coman

Inspired by Japanese art and French eighteenth-century porcelain, the Rousseau-Bracquemond ceramic table service of 1866 blurred the line between the decorative and the fine arts. Exhibited at the 1867 World’s Fair in Paris, the service met with exceptional critical and commercial success. This paper focuses on the Rousseau-Bracquemond service to propose that cross-cultural encounters unsettled hierarchical relationships among media in nineteenth-century France. Through a visual and historiographical analysis of this case study, the paper offers a re-evaluation of the interrelationships among ceramics and modern painting. Challenging Eurocentric art historical narratives, the paper explores how the Rousseau-Bracquemond service connected Japonisme, historicism, and Republican thought. Politically charged and technically innovative, the service exemplified a new type of cross-media collaborations among a network of artists, dealers, critics, and collectors. At the intersection of ornament and realism, their radical work marked a major change in the relation between art and design.