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Soyer, A Family of Parisian Enamelers

Circa 1867-1914

From July 14th to October 22nd, 2023 -
Musée d'Orsay
Map & itinerary
Edgar Degas, Adrien-Aurélien Hébrard
Danse espagnole, entre 1921 et 1931
Musée d'Orsay
Achat avec la générosité des héritiers d'Edgar Degas et de la famille Hébrard, 1931
© RMN-Grand Palais (Musée d’Orsay) / Herve Lewandowski
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The Soyer family specialized in the art of painted enamels and distinguished itself for half a century in a variety of styles, from Neo-Renaissance to Art Nouveau. Musée d’Orsay’s collection of preparatory drawings provides an overview of this family of Parisian enamelers’ creative process and body of work.

Painted enamelwork is one of the age-old techniques that artists rediscovered in the second half of the 19th century. Following Claudius Popelin’s history of enameling, L’Email des Peintres, published in 1866, Paul Soyer, who had trained as an engraver, set himself to specializing in the painted enamel technique “in the manner of Limoges”. He soon established a business that made a name for itself in salons and exhibitions, with accolades including a gold medal at the 1878 Universal Exhibition.

After the 1889 edition, his son Théophile, who had trained at the Paris School of Fine Arts, took over the family business with his wife Lucie Dejoux, who was an enameler herself. Their daughter Jeanne was trained by her parents from a very early age and soon became “the company’s best worker”.

 

The exhibition comprises a selection of preparatory drawings that bear witness to the Soyers’ inventiveness and ability to adapt to the taste of their day. Up until 1914, they remained faithful to historicism while developing a range of Art Nouveau products inspired by nature and female figures. These drawings also provide an opportunity to observe the process by which their products were manufactured, from choice of metals for creation of shapes to selection of colors for enameling.

 

Described (not without irony) by Lucien Falize as an “enamels factory”, Maison Soyer in rue Saint-Sauveur, Paris, prospered. A stock book gives us an idea of just how intensive its activity was, the extraordinary diversity of its creations and the extent of its sales network.

The exhibition is now over.

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Exhibition artworks