The Splendour of painting on porcelain. Charles Nicolas Dodin and the Vincennes-Sèvres Manufactory in the 18th century. Chateau de Versailles.
From 16 May to 9 September 2012, the palace of Versailles presents the exhibition The Splendour of painting on porcelain. Charles Nicolas Dodin and the Vincennes-Sèvres Manufactory in the 18th century in the apartments of Madame de Maintenon and in the King’s Guardroom.
This exhibition is consecrated to one of the most gifted painters of the Royal Manufactory of porcelain in the 18th century, Charles Nicolas Dodin, whose works during his lifetime and in the following century were sought after by the greatest collectors of porcelain. The exhibition seeks to highlight both the artistic evolution and the diversity of the sources of inspiration of Charles Nicolas Dodin.
During forty-nine years spent working at the Manufactory, Dodin contributed to the most outstanding commissions produced for the kings and their entourage, in particular the mistresses of Louis XV, and for foreign rulers such as Catherine II of Russia. Through these prestigious works, the exhibition retraces the enlightening artistic evolution of Dodin’s career, as clearly signposted as that of a contemporary easel painter.
It also throws light on the diversity of Dodin’s sources of inspiration by presenting engravings and paintings that inspired him. These works show the very profound correspondences which existed between the arts (paintings, drawings, prints, sculptures, medals, ceramics) in the second half of the 18th century and the extraordinary artistic emulation that they fostered.
Dodin was essentially, as was said in the 18th century, a painter "in miniature", or a painter of “figures”, which meant that his talents were devoted to the most prestigious genre in the hierarchy of the Manufactory. His works were eagerly sought to be included in the most celebrated collections of works of art, notably in the palace of Versailles, where they still featured a century later.
French miniature painter. For nearly half a century Charles-Nicolas Dodin worked as a miniature painter at the porcelain manufactory of Vincennes-Sevrès, where he was considered one of the best artists. The fine quality of his work was early recognized by the managers of the royal manufactory, which meant that there were soon examples of it in the best French and other European collections, including those of Louis XV and the last two royal mistresses, Madame de Pompadour and Madame du Barry, as well as Louis XVI and his brothers Louis Stanislas Xavier, comte de Provence (later Louis XVIII), and Charles Philippe, comte d'Artois (later Charles X).
"Pale-faced and agreeable," Charles-Nicolas Dodin arrived at the Vincennes Porcelain Manufactory when he was only twenty, having first studied military engineering; he was soon described as "having a good talent and making a lot of progress" as a porcelain painter. Like most beginners at the factory, his early works were in monochrome, but he soon graduated to a more complicated polychrome palette. He specialized in painting scenes after François Boucher, landscapes, chinoiseries, and figures. His initial wage of twenty-four livres soon grew, and by the time he was forty, he was earning one hundred livres as one of the factory's highest paid painters. He earned four livres a day for overtime work, as well as bonus payments and an accommodation allowance. By the end of his career, Dodin had become "the most skillful painter in the workshop." A contemporary remembered him as "one of those [painters] who brought the most honour and profit to the manufactory." He always signed his works with the mark K or k.