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European soft paste porcelain dates back to the 16th century when the Europeans became very inspired with Chinese porcelain wares that had already been imported for the past couple of centuries. But porcelain could not be afforded by everyone so potters endeavored to discover its composition in order to be able to reproduce it, or at least, produce less expensive simulations of it for the middle class. During the early experiments, such ingredients as clay, frit, soapstone and lime were known to be used.

The term “soft paste porcelain” does not mean it is softer than hard paste porcelain; the adjectives refer to the fire with which the wares are produced. Soft paste is fired at a softer fire or lower temperature compared to hard paste porcelain, the temperature being around 1200°C (hard paste, on the other hand, is fired at around 1450°C). Because soft paste was fired this way, it saved the potters fuel and it enabled more colors to be used for the porcelain.

The first kind of soft paste porcelain in  kmspicosoft Europe was called Medici porcelain. This was produced under the direction of Francesco di Medici at the Casino di Marco in Florence, Italy between 1575 and 1587. Medici porcelain was made of Vicenza clay, powdered feldspar, calcium phosphate, sand and wollastonite with quartz. The glassy appearance of porcelain made them also think that glass might be an ingredient. Although there are only six pieces recorded to be existing at present, about 300 were manufactured before – much of these were defective because they were fired at exceeding temperatures.

In France, soft paste porcelain was called “pate tender”. During 1673, another variety of soft paste was developed in Rouen, France by Louis Poterat at the Saint-Cloud factory called “Porcelaine Francaise,” which was intended to be an imitation of Chinese hard paste porcelain. This type of soft past was described to as white and translucent as Chinese porcelain. Poterat also produced blue varieties which are considered to be very rare nowadays.

In 1742, an English potter by the name of Thomas Briand produced the very first examples of English soft paste porcelain based on the formula used at the Saint-Cloud factory. Fifteen years after, six potteries had already been founded in England which were all devoted to producing soft paste porcelain wares. Many other varieties were produced in the following years: Chelsea porcelain was produced in 1743; Bow porcelain was produced in 1745; St. James’ porcelain was produced in 1748; Bristol porcelain was produced in 1748; Longton Hall porcelain was produced in 1750; Derby porcelain was produced in 1757 and Lowestoft porcelain was produced in 1757.

The development of soft paste porcelain gradually led to its perfection. Many more innovations were made. Through it, hard paste was discovered and improved on. Eventually, bone china was also discovered and perfected.

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