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16th Century French Ceramics - Bernard Palissy Pottery

Updated on September 13, 2016
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French Ceramic Art by Bernard Palissy
French Ceramic Art by Bernard Palissy | Source

Bernard Palissy is one of the greatest French craftsmen who was a bespoke potter and ceramic producer of the 16th century. He embarked on a series of experiments to find out how to produce unique and beautiful ceramic art.

He suffered much hardship and privation before finally discovering the production process and materials appropriate for the making of his now famous French ceramics. In the process Palissy lost all his hard earned savings to those experiments.

However, according to the history of bespoke craftsmen, it was only after he had in a fit of anger, burnt up his furniture in order to fuel his kiln that he finally succeeded in making the unique enamel mix for which French pottery is well noted for.

Influence of Italian Majolica Wares on French Ceramics

Palissy's work was strongly influenced by Italian ceramic ware. He had tried to imitate and improve its production process, and was successful with his attempt.

This made him greatly inspired and he was soon modelling his forms and colouring largely from natural scenes, using plants, sea animals, crabs, fish, coral, seaweed, snakes, frogs, etc.., and these he always presented naturalistic-ally.

He also used mythological and religious subjects occasionally for his designs and forms.

Ornamental Ceramic Work of Palissy
Ornamental Ceramic Work of Palissy | Source

Value Placed on Palissy's Original Ceramics

The value placed on Palissy's original ceramic art ware is so high and this has made forgeries of his works flood the market.

To know his original pottery works, has a tint of reddish-yellow in the white areas, with the red tint of a poorer quality and their glazed finish are usually cracked.

Unfortunately, Bernard Palissy, who started off as a glass painter and later became the first great Renaissance ceramic potter, was eventually sent to prison for his embracing of Reformation principles.

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