Ernest Chaplet 1835–1909
Born in Sèvres, Ernest Chaplet apprenticed at the Manufacture Nationale de Sèvres beginning in 1848 at the tender age of thirteen before moving on to produce painted earthenware for nearly twenty years at the Laurin factory in Bourg-la-Reine. In 1875 he was hired by an experimental studio at Auteuil owned by Charles Haviland where he advanced and perfected the technique of barbotine. The Auteuil atelier closed in 1881 but, at the behest of Chaplet, Haviland opened a second in Vaugirard in 1882. He spent several years at the Vaugirard atelier, eventually taking full control of it after Haviland withdrew his support. There he produced painted, unglazed stoneware in the peasant pottery style, and frequently collaborated with Albert-Louis and Édouard-Alexandre Dammouse to create elaborate vases with Japonesque and Chinese designs with applied elements.
By 1887, Chaplet had settled in Choisy-le-Roi where he perfected the notoriously difficult oxblood, or sang de boeuf, glaze for which he won a gold medal at the 1889 Exposition Universelle in Paris. Chaplet spent the remaining years of his career experimenting with Chinese-inspired glazes and won further acclaim at the 1900 Paris Exposition Universelle. His career came to a tragic end in 1904 after he lost his sight. Unable to continue his life's work, he fell into despair and destroyed his countless unique glaze formulas and notebooks before committing suicide in 1909. Known as one of the most industrious and innovative ceramists of the nineteenth century, his work can be found in permanent collections across the world, among them the Art Institute of Chicago, the Musée d’Orsay, Paris, the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.