Grégoire Scalabre’s hands dipped in porcelain glaze. Photo by Fabien Jallot.
Gregoire making the miniature porcelain pieces for his sculptures. Photo by Fabien Jallot.
Miniature porcelain pieces by Gregoire Scalabre. Photo by Fabien Jallot.
Glazed and ready to be added to the larger sculptural form. Photo by Charles De Borggraef.
The Final Metamorphosis Of Thetis by Gregoire Scalabre, presented at Homo Faber 2022 in Venice. Photo by Charles De Borggraef.
Made up of over 70,ooo of miniature porcelain pieces turned individually by hand, L’Ultime Métamorphose de Thétis (The Final Metamorphosis Of Thetis) by Gregoire Scalabre is a labour-intensive exercise and a lesson in exceptional engineering. Weighing a whopping 450 kilos and standing 2 metres high, the monumental sculpture took months to put together. Photo by Charles De Borggraef.
With miniature porcelain in butter-smooth glazing,
“I like to play with a very wide range, from the miniature to the monumental, from dissemination to accumulation, from the rough to the refined. I also like to challenge ideas of scale, repetition and mass,” says the sculptor, whose design language–of broad lines, swooping curves, and enamelled and hammered finishes–alludes to references from architecture, industrial design, and French history and heritage.
Grégoire’s art lives in some of the most prestigious museums around the world, including the
His latest masterpiece, titled L’Ultime Métamorphose de Thétis (The Final Metamorphosis of Thetis), debuts at the Porcelain Virtuosity Exhibition as part of
View from Gregoire’s workshop at La Manufacture de Sèvres with the first sketches of The Final Metamorphosis of Thetis. Photo by Benjamin Lalande.
Gregoire Scalabre in residence at Atelier Manufacture De Sevres. Photo by Benjamin Lalande.
Mouvement Perpetuel by Gregoire Scalabre at Manufacture de Sevres. Photo by Anthony Girardi.
“Thetis had six sons whom she dreamed of immortalising. Her first six perished, leaving only her last, Achilles, to be immortalised in a magical underworld river. Only, on that fateful day, as Thetis dipped her youngest into the river, she mistakenly kept his heel above the water. And so it remained the heel of a mortal, which ultimately led to his downfall,” Grégoire explains.
Legend has it that after Achilles’s death, Thetis took refuge in the abyss as atonement for failing to protect her son, and spent her life as a recluse in the depths of the sea. In Grégoire’s portrayal, Thetis rises from the water, draped in a queenly cloak of miniature ceramic amphorae.
The sculpture is nothing short of monumental. Weighing a whopping 450 kilos and standing 2 metres high, its production is a lesson in exceptional engineering. But if you’re fooled by its scale, don’t be. Because besides its epic proportions, the drama here is all in the details. With over 70,000 porcelain
Gregoire putting the final touches on Cyngus. Photo by Virginie Mercier.
Cyngus by Gregoire Scalabre, porcelain medallion with black glaze. Photo by Anthony Girardi.
Soane at Gallerie Modern Shapes. Photo by Anthony Girardi.
Gregoire Scalabre’s home studio in Dieulefit. Photo by Anthony Girardi.
Work in progress at Dieulefit. Photo by Anthony Girardi.
“I used a traditional technique called clod turning, which involves moving from one piece to another fluidly, the hands following each other like a thread. It allows for more precision when turning small pieces and each piece remains unique while belonging to a larger family,” says the sculptor, who turned 80% of the miniatures himself, with the remainder being rendered by two of his assistants. “Due to the concentration required and the physical limitations of the constant repetition, hour after hour, day after day, on the wheel, I entered a kind of creative trance.”
Look closely and you’ll see that the miniatures, which sit on a base of resin foam, sport mildly varying tones. “The palette is composed of white, beige and green shades in contrasting shiny and smooth textures that recall elements [like water and minerals],” says Grégoire, who opted to use insufflation glazing techniques at the Manufacture Nationale de Sèvres.
Perhaps most intriguing of all in the genesis of the sculpture was it’s coming together: Because once the miniatures had been fired and cooled, Grégoire had to assemble the parts into a whole, almost as if piecing together a brilliant larger-than-life puzzle.
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