Villeroy & Boch Luxembourg after the Second World War

Villeroy & Boch Luxembourg after the Second World War

Following the liberation of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg in 1944, the production of decorative art objects at the Villeroy & Boch fine earthenware manufactory only reluctantly picked up pace. At first, the company continued to follow the prevalent taste from before the war by producing Art Déco-style objects. The idea was to continue the efforts for the democratisation of pieces of art and collectors’ items, which had started in the 1930s. This is why the production of many creations from the 1920s and 30s continued into the early 1960s. Colours and glazing alone were modified to suit modern tastes, using new glazing techniques in a hesitant movement towards modernisation.


A series of figurines sold under the name of Bambi-Line, however, was truly novel, representing a stylistic turning point in the production of ceramic art in Septfontaines. The shapes were rather organic and realistic in appearance, a stylistic trend that was typical of the 1950s. Gone were the clumsy, comical designs, to be replaced by delicately elongated shapes. 

The series includes animals such as a gazelle, penguins and horses, as well as women’s flowing, dissolving shapes. At the start, all figurines were available in either matte white or black, but coloured glazes in both matte and shiny were later added to the range. Monochrome glazes, some with gilded details, became one of the trademark designs of the factory in Septfontaines.

Internal artists created most of the designs, and it was the company’s policy at the time not to name them. Unfortunately, this makes it impossible to trace back the name of individual artists today. The only name that was made public was that of Ludwig Scherer, who joined Villeroy & Boch in 1954, and worked in Septfontaines long enough to become known. Even in the early years of his career, the master modeller played a key role in developing the Bambi-Line series of figurines. His portrait of a young fawn was named after Felix Salten’s 1923 book “Bambi”. The Walt Disney movie from 1942 by the same name provided the stylistic inspiration for the figurine and ultimately lent its name to the entire series of 1950s decorative items.

Articles de Fantaisie

The largest part of the imaginative gift items created in the 1950s, called Articles de Fantaisie, are decorative every-day items such as vases, bowls, sweet boxes, candlestick holders or ashtrays. As previously mentioned, designs stemming from before the war were reused, with selected novelties being added to the product line. The new designs were less playful by comparison and had softer shapes with rounded edges and corners. These items, as well as the figurines mentioned above, were numbered; the numbers can usually be found on the bottom of the piece. The numbers – representing an item model number and the Villeroy & Boch reference number – are in relief. This numbering system was a continuation of the system introduced for decorative items before the war. 

Particularly ashtrays – but also bowls – were frequently used as promotional gifts, commissioned by companies or institutions with a specified lettering. Customers were also able to order personalised items to commemorate a special occasion. The customer’s logo, lettering or a drawing submitted by the customer was printed on various items of a series. These pieces were produced as promotional gifts or gift items until the 1970s, one example being a triangular ashtray with rounded corners for the “XVe Tournoi Sportif International des Finances in 1970”.

Heatproof cookware from Luxembourg in kitchens across Europe

In the 1950s, the focus was back on the production of practical household items, such as cookware and tableware. The heatproof cookware became one of the most widely known fine earthenware products by the Luxembourgish manufacturer. Especially the brown tableware was a bestseller until right into the 1970s. The company did attempt to slowly move away from the brown colour and give the well-known items a new look by adding different colours. Tea and coffee pots, cups and serving dishes were no longer available just in dark brown, but also in bright yellow and light green. The 1950ies saw the construction of new factory halls for the production of the heatproof tableware, which were put into operation in 1959. At that time, the manufacturing site in Septfontaines was one of the largest factories for this kind of tableware, with an output of 500,000 items per month. The new factory halls were to secure Septfontaines’s competitiveness – after all, less than 10% of the output was bought by customers within Luxembourg. The remaining 90% was exported, most notably to Belgium, followed by France, the Netherlands and Germany. Therefore, it made perfect sense to try out product innovations in the lucrative area of cookware and tableware, and this is where the slow transition from heatproof fine earthenware to heatproof porcelain started. The teapot Namur and the matching coffee filter Filtralux were the first products from the Villeroy & Boch line in Septfontaines made from Vitro porcelain in 1958.

Festival Ware: the practical gift

The Festival Ware series was based on the principle of functionality. Conceived in the mid-1950s, this series of gift items was promoted as the ideal “practical gift” at the time. Each piece stood out thanks to its vibrant colours and modern shape, and came in its dedicated colourful gift box especially designed by Villeroy & Boch. Typically, each box contained six colour versions of the same item: light pink, pastel green, lemon yellow, sky blue, orange-brown and light grey. Despite the limited number of shapes, the wide range of colours allowed the fine earthenware manufacturer to offer a wide range of products, appealing to a great number of customers, and to distinguish themselves in the European market. 

From fine earthenware to porcelain

In 1953, a limited liability company was founded to manage and operate the factory, which led to restructuring the company and even the management. Baron Antoine de Schorlemer (1927–2014), a cousin of Luitwin von Boch-Galhau (*1936), was appointed managing director. His focus was on the quest for innovation – and this led to the factory being modernised. Particularly the factories located in Germany or near the German border had suffered severely during the Second World War, forcing Villeroy & Boch to rethink its position.

The reorientation included the series production of art objects and household items, as well as the refocus and transition from fine earthenware to porcelain, which had started in 1958. A special form of porcelain called Vitreous china was developed and launched by the Luxembourger site of Villeroy & Boch. Vitreous china or Vitro porcelain, which is now sold as Premium porcelain, was a new form of porcelain – a hard-paste porcelain – and looked almost as luxurious as Bone china, but was much more resilient. Bone china is a porcelain refined with bone ash, which thus retains its translucent body. In fact, one decade later, on the 200th anniversary of the Septfontaines fine earthenware manufactory (founded in 1767), the decision was taken to make a complete switch to Vitro porcelain. This type of ceramic mostly owes its success to large companies that used Vitro porcelain tableware in restaurants and hotels. In the summer of 1968, the last fine earthenware products left the factory. 

Decades of modernisation

The management was always on the lookout for innovation, a quest that was first noticeable in the Festival Ware series. From the mid-1950ies, the trend slowly returned from plain-coloured glaze to decorative motifs, often against a white background. New and younger artists, some of whom had never worked with ceramics as a medium, were promoted. Young talents were scouted in artists’ studios in Paris and amongst the most gifted graduates from German universities and art schools. Baron Antoine de Schorlemer wanted to promote new artists working outside of the company. He firmly believed that the reality of work in a factory limited the artists’ imagination. That is why he wanted them to remain in large cities where they were able to collaborate and share with other artists. From the 1960s onwards, these external designers and artists increasingly dominated the creative world at Villeroy & Boch Septfontaines, starting with decors such as Tyrol, Viking and Holiday. Christine Reuter, a Munich-based artist, had designed Viking and Holiday.


Starting from the late 1960s, the names of the artist or designer was shown on the bottom of each item, probably a direct effect of the sourcing of external creative talents. Master of modelling Ludwig Scherer also got his mention, which led him to become, in a sense, the private brand. Later on, the manufactory recruited designers who had already earned a reputation as international trendsetters, such as Sue Heaven from London or Gérard Laplau (1938–2009) from Paris. Their names stood for modernity and helped sell the products. Mentioning the designer’s name was no longer just a troublesome obligation.

Design Made in Luxembourg

One aspect that made Villeroy & Boch stand out was that the production of different designs varied from one factory to another. Each site designed and produced its own decors and shapes. Acapulco and Scarlett, for example, two designs that are still famous today, were only produced in Luxembourg. It was not until the end of the 20th century that the designs were shared between production sites. This was not the first step towards the harmonisation of all V & B sites, however: a uniform brand had been introduced earlier. The Luxembourg factory had officially reintroduced the Mercure stamp on the occasion of the 200th anniversary in 1967, which mentioned the founding year, 1767. As early as in the mid- to late 1970ies, the Villeroy & Boch group with headquarters in Mettlach (Saarland) referenced the founding year 1747 of the paternal Boch manufactory in Audun-le-Tiche (Lorraine) as the group’s founding year. From then on, all products manufactured in Septfontaines carried the year 1747. This can be seen on two vases that are part of the museum’s collection: Both carry the French Garden Fleurence decor, which inspired the lemons and leaves frieze that can be found on all Villeroy & Boch products made since 1998. The square vase is Made in Germany, whereas the other one is labelled as produced in Luxembourg. 


The post-war years brought changes and modernisation for Villeroy & Boch. Thanks to their ongoing search for innovation in the world of decor and product materials, the company played a leading role in creating the concept of dining culture in the second half of the 20th century. A large part of these innovations were conceived and tested at the Septfontaines site, most notably Vitro porcelain, whose invention contributed to shaping the future of the European company.

Text | CC BY-NC | Tina Pfeifer, MNAHA

Further reading

  • Brendel, Anna: Villeroy & Boch – Teil 3, 21.08.2021, on (retrieved: 26.10.2022).
  • Buhrow, Jana Lisa: La céramique Art déco – Classification stylistique de la collection, in: Buhrow, Jana Lisa / Fuge, Boris / Sente, Carlo: Villeroy & Boch : faïences décoratives du Luxembourg de l'art déco aux années 1960 : dekorative Fayencen aus Luxemburg vom Art Déco bis zu den 1960er Jahren, Catalogue d’exposition du Musée d’histoire de la Ville de Luxembourg 2007. (Luxembourg Library Catalogue)
  • Gaasch, Romain: Portrait einer luxemburgischen Exportfirma Villeroy und Boch – Die Geschichte und Produkte von Villeroy und Boch im Laufe der Jahrhunderte, in: Lëtzebuerger Journal, 84th year (1981), nr. 269, p. 7.
  • Hayot, Monelle: Septfontaines et la manufacture de Villeroy et Boch, in: L’œil – revue d’art mensuelle, nr. 369, Lausanne 1986, p. 38-45. (Luxembourg Library Catalogue)
  • Frauen im Arbeitsplatz in den Usines céramiques Villeroy & Boch, in: Luxemburger Wort, 126. Jg., nr. 17 (20.01.1973), p. 21, digitised by the National Library of Luxembourg (full text, retrieved: 26.10.2022).
  • Personalehrung bei Villeroy & Boch, in: Luxemburger Wort, 126. Jg., nr. 138 (18.06.1973), S. 6, digitised by the National Library of Luxembourg (full text, retrieved: 26.10.2022).
  • Villeroy & Boch Group: Die Geschichte des Unternehmens, on (retrieved: 06.10.2022).


Publication date: August 11th, 2023

Last update: July 10th, 2024


Note to user

Dear user,

In response to current developments in the web technology used by the Goobi viewer, the software no longer supports your browser.

Please use one of the following browsers to display this page correctly.

Thank you.