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Beautiful Thing: a Passion for Porcelain

Tue Jun 18, 9-10pm, BBC4

‘Underneath, you sort of want to smash it up.’ These words, spoken early on by an expert in the field of porcelain, sums up a popular opinion. While technically brilliant, porcelain can also be – to quote Simon Beeley’s narration – ‘a little bit bling’. Here, Dame Rosalind Savill makes the case for the misjudged material, nervously handling the extensive Wallace Collection and taking us through history to explain just why it is what it is, and what on earth people saw in it in the first place.

We see the origins of Sèvres porcelain, in a seventeenth-century French aristocratic society yet to see the revolution that would take away these indulgences. With a piece of porcelain for every purpose, it’s more a study of the overly wealthy than anything else. It’s fun to see these luxurious, often superfluous items in all their over-the-top glory, and the playful tone of the documentary is a good match. It’s a good defence, and a surprisingly engaging one too.

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