Online Encyclopedia


Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V05, Page 739 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
Spread the word: it!
FRENCH POTTERY FROM THE 15TH TO THE 19TH CENTURY The pottery of medieval France needs little attention here, for it was, in the main, similar to that which was made generally in Europe—rudely shaped vessels of ordinary clay often decorated with modelled ornament and glazed with yellow or brown lead glaze, or, if coated with white slip, decorated with bright green glazes, and towards the end of the 15th century with greyish blue. The later specimens of this simple ware—pronouncedly Gothic in feeling—were often extremely decorative. Avignon, Beauvais and Savigny are the best-known centres of this truly national manufacture, and, as we might expect in French work, the reliefs are often sharp and well designed. Evidence accumulates that from time to time the princes and great nobles imported Spanish or Italian workmen to make special tiles for the decoration of their palaces or chapels. The duke of Burgundy brought Jehan de Sloustiers and Jehan-le-Voleur, " ouvriers en quarrieaux peints et jolis," in 1391, to paint tiles for his palaces at Hesdin and Arras in the north, and we have already referred to the tile-work in the Spanish fashion made at Poitiers by John of Valencia, the " Saracen," in 1384 for Duke Jean de Berry.2 Other instances might be multiplied but that this foreign work left little or no traces on contemporary French pottery. Even at a later date, when Francis I. brought Girolamo della Robbia from Italy to decorate his " Petit Chateau de Madrid " in 1529, or when Masseot Abaquesne, about 1542, manufactured at Rouen the painted tile pavements for the chateau of Ecouen, the cathedral of Langres, and other places, nothing came of the imported methods; the works were executed and left no traces on the general pottery of the country. During the 16th century, however, two remarkable kinds of pottery were made in France of distinctive quality, and both eminently French—the Henri-Deux ware and the pottery of Bernard Palissy and his imitators. Henri-Deux, Oiron or St Porchaire ware, for all these names have in turn been applied to the enigmatic and wonderful pottery, specimens of which are now valued at more than their weight in 2 See Magne, Le Palais de Justice de Poitiers (Paris, 1904) ; also Solon in Burlington Magazine (November 1907). I.I gold, was once believed to have been made by the librarian Bernard, and his assistant Charpentier, for their patroness Helene de Hangest about 1529 at her chateau at Oiron, near Thouars.1 A few years ago this theory was discarded in favour of one which assigned them to some unknown potter of St Porchaire in the same region; 2 but even of this theory there is insufficient proof, and we are left in doubt both as to the maker and the place of origin. All we know is that the ware dates from the reign of Henry II., and that it was probably made somewherenearOiron, as most of the specimens have been found in that district. The work is sui generis, for it had no direct ancestry, neither did it leave any mark on contemporary French pottery. Sixty-five pieces of the ware (see fig. 48) are known to be in museums and private collections; the Louvre and the Victoria and Albert Museum have the best collections of their kinds, but the Rothschilds still hold the greater number of examples. The ware is fashioned in a simple whitish pipeclay, and ornamented with interlacing strap-work patterns, typical of the period, inlaid in yellow, buff or dark-brown clay. The forms are generally graceful, but some examples are over-elaborate and overloaded with modelled ornament. The pieces were designed to serve as candlesticks, salt-cellars, tazzas, ewers, holy-water pots and dishes. After the vessels had been " thrown " and " turned " to a perfect shape, metal tools, such as were used by the bookbinders and casemakers of that day, were pressed into the clay, so as to form sunk cells of ornamental tooling. These cells were carefully filled with finely-prepared slips of other clays, that would burn yellow, buff or dark-brown; and when the whole was dry the piece was carefully smoothed again, and moulded reliefs were attached, or touches of colour were applied. After being fired the ware was glazed, apparently with the ordinary lead glaze of the time care-fully prepared and fired again. At a later period the ornament was not inlaid in this elaborate manner, but was simply painted, as indeed it might all have been so far as decorative effect is concerned. Palissy Ware.—Bernard Palissy was a genius of original talent, but, at the hands of his literary admirers, he has gained a legendary rank as one of the great potters of the world which his pottery does not warrant. He is supposed to have spent sixteen years in the search for the white enamel which was being used all the time in Italy and Spain—probably he was searching for the mystery of Chinese porcelain—and when he settled down to make the " Palissy ware," he did nothing more than carry to perfection the methods of the village pot-makers of his own district. On a hard-fired red clay he disposed groups of moulded plants, shells, fish and reptiles, painted them with crude green, brown and yellow colours, and glazed the whole with a well- prepared lead glaze. His style soon had numerous imitators, like A. Clericy and B. de Blemont, who executed works quite as good as those of their master; but their works also vanished and 1 See B. Fillon, Les Faiences d'Oiron (1862). See E. Bonaffe, Les Faiences de Saint-Porchaire (1898).left no permanent impression on the general trend of French pottery. Meantime Italian, and, it may be, Spanish potters strayed over the French border and attempted to introduce the manufacture of their tin-enamelled wares; for we know of the works of Gambin and Tardessir of Faenza, established at Lyons about 1556; of Sigalon at Nimes in 1548; of Jehan Ferro at Nantes about 158o, and other sporadic efforts. The needed impetus came, however, when the Mantuan duke, Louis de Gonzague, became duke of Nevers in 1565; and we find Italian majolists, working under princely patronage, planting their decadent art in the centre of France. The first efforts met with little success until, with the appearance of the Conrades from Savona, who were domiciled in Nevers in 1602, we get the genuine ware of Nevers. Naturally the first productions, whether of the Conrades or their predecessors, were in the style of the debased majolica of Savona, but the body and glaze of the ware is harder, the colours are not so rich, and the execution is less spirited. The first departure from Italian traditions is seen in the ware of the so-called "Persian style" of Nevers—probably adopted from contemporary work in Limoges enamels on metal—where conventional and fanciful designs of flowers and foliage, birds, animals or figures were thickly raised in white enamel on a ground of bright, intense cobalt-blue glaze. After the middle of the 17th century the Italian style of design appears to have been entirely replaced by pseudo-oriental patterns painted in blue or in polychrome, but really imitated from the " Delft" copies of Chinese and Japanese porcelain. When Rouen and Moustiers became famous for their distinctive wares Nevers copied their designs also, and on a gradually descending scale the manufacture continued to the end of the 18th century, when France was flooded with the rude Faiences palriotiques from this centre. The genuine French tin-enamelled ware, freed from the traces of Italian influence, first developed itself at Rouen under the famous Poterats in the later part of the 17th century. A new scheme of ornamentation was gradually evolved in the daintily-designed scalloped and radiating patterns adapted from oriental fabrics, lace and needlework, and from the ornamental devices of contemporary printers. These designs, having been skilfully drawn on the pieces, were filled in with bright blue, strong yellow, light green, or a bright bricky-red in palpable relief, applied as flat washes or in fine lines; and the result was a gay and sparkling ware much superior in decorative value to the later Italian majolicas (see fig. 49). So successful was this Rouen ware that rival factories were quickly started at Saint Cloud, Sinceny, F1c. 48.--Tazza of Oiron pottery. (Louvre.) Oiron Potter's mark. Quimper, Lille, and other places in the north. Saint Cloud and Lille made fine pottery of this class at the end of the 17th and in the early 18th century. It was imitated at Nevers, the potters' marks shown being those of J. Bourdu and H. Borne. In the south of France, Pierre Clerissy established the industry at Moustiers in 1686, and, though the early Moustiers ware bears a 168~/ ~0 0 strong resemblance to the debased Italian majolica of the time, the Nevers Potters' marks. Moustiers painters soon left that behind, and on a glaze of inimitable whiteness and softness they deftly pencilled blue patterns based on the engravings of designs after Berain, Marot and Toro. At a later date Olerys, who had been to Alcora to introduce the French faience into Spain, returned to Moustiers and introduced a pale polychrome style very inferior to that of Rouen. These pieces are covered with patterns outlined in blue and filled in with yellow, pale green and light purple. Olerys is also said to have introduced the grotesque style of Moustiers, founded on the caricatures of Callot. Other factories were started from Moustiers, such as those at Apt, Ardus and Montauban, and even at Narbonne, Bordeaux and Clermont-Ferrand; just as the northern factories had sprung from Rouen. We have already seen at Nevers the introduction of patterns in the Chinese style, and the same course was increasingly followed at all the French factories during the 18th century. At Strassburg a fresh impetus was given in this direction when, about 1721, CharlesHanrong introduced the practice of painting his white tin-enamelled ware with the on-glaze colours used by the porcelain painters. This process enabled the French potter to produce many colours unobtainable by his older process, and moreover helped him to make his wares look more like the coveted porcelain, then becoming the rage all over Europe. This new departure marks the end of the best period of French faience, but so successfully did it meet the demands of the time that it gradually displaced the old method of decoration where the colours were painted on the raw glaze and fired along with it. Factories sprang up for the manufacture of this new ware in the first half of the 18th century at Niederviller, Luneville and Sceaux, and it was quickly adopted by the older factories at Rouen, Sinceny, Marseilles, &c. With its general adoption the old French faience, developed from the Italian stock, departed, to make way for a tin-enamelled imitation of famille-rose porcelain. But this last style was not of long life. The wealthy classes were no longer patrons of pottery but of porcelain, and when, after 1786, the newly perfected English earthenware was thrown upon the French market, the French faience-makers had to give up their works, or adopt the manufacture of this neater and, for domestic purposes, more suitable form of. pottery. This change, together with the disturbances of revolutionary times, brought artistic pottery in France to a standstill, and we shall treat of its revival during the last forty or fifty years in a subsequent section. Collections.—The Victoria and Albert Museum and the British Museum contain typical examples; but not such collections as are to be seen in the Cluny Museum, the Louvre, the museum at Sevres, or the French provincial museums at Rouen, Limoges, Marseilles, Lille, St Omer, &c.

Additional information and Comments

There are no comments yet for this article.
» Add information or comments to this article.
Please link directly to this article:
Highlight the code below, right click and select "copy." Paste it into a website, email, or other HTML document.