Touch Codes and Japanese Taste: The Material Experience of Felix Bracquemond's Service Rousseau

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Offering a new perspective on a canonical work of early French Japonisme, this paper explores the ceramic Service Rousseau as an exemplar of both ornamental and material innovation. Previous scholarship has focused almost exclusively on the Japanese motifs Félix Bracquemond used to decorate this popular and influential tableware. While an analysis of Japanese sources and their adaptation remains crucial to the interpretation of these ceramics, this paper also demonstrates how the materiality, production, and use of the service enrich its cultural and historical meaning. Manufactured in faïence during the late 1860s, the Service Rousseau rejected the French convention of porcelain table settings and established a new discourse around the experiential and political potential of earthenware. Much more than just a material support, earthenware imbued the Service Rousseau with phenomenological and cultural significance, and this paper uncovers how the physical properties of the setting – its texture, weight, manufacture, decoration, and display – transformed the tableware into a revolutionary work of modern French design. By examining how these ceramics paired touch codes with Japanese taste, this study enhances the standard narrative of the Service Rousseau to reveal how this cross-cultural dinnerware challenged visual, material, and social hierarchies in Second-Empire France.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)108-124
JournalAustralian and New Zealand Journal of Art
Issue number1
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 14 Aug 2018


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