France – Mid 16th to 19th c.

French Pottery from mid 16th till the end of the 19th century – Poterie français du 16ème jusqu’à la fin du 19ème siècle.

Lyon 16th - Metropolitan Museum NY

The tradition and history of French ceramics (ceramique Francaise – poterie Francais) has a strong influence from the Italian pottery. It was Italian potters like Sebastiano Griffo from Genoa, Gian Francesco from Pesaro, Gambin and Tardessire from Faenza among others that established the early potteries in Lyon around the mid 16th century. The Lyon patterns of that age were influenced from the Tuscany production and gradually were almost impossible to separate from the examples made in Italy (especially due to the fact that Italian potters continued to use Italian inscriptions although working in France).

Probably one of the most important potters of the 16th century is Bernard Palissy. Born in 1510, Palissy established his pottery around 1540 at Saintes and developed a range of colored glazes, including the yellow and blue that complemented the common brown and green of the time. With a new range of colors and a totally fresh creativity he advanced a new category of ceramics called “rustiques figulines” including dishes with scenes copied from paintings and prints, or covered with fishes, shells and reptiles colored like in true nature. His style inspired potters for over a century after his death in 1590 including the Minton’s majolica by Charles Toft in the 1850’s.

Nevers 19th - Private Collection France


Nevers was the most important of the early factories. Gambin from Faenza that was encountered a few years earlier in Lyon was the first recorded potter in Nevers. Gambin was in business with a family called Corrado, who obtained the ‘privilege’ from Henri IV to produce ceramics in Nevers exclusively for 30 years. Nevers ceramics were heavily influenced from Italian styles and Italian potters. The ‘Istoriato’, ‘Compendiario’ and ‘Berrettino’ style are obvious in Nevers pottery of the late 16th and early 17th century. Nevers was the leading pottery center in France in the 17th century. Potters were influenced from Chinese Blue and White porcelain, Delft faiences and other European styles. Oriental ideas were also used for decoration, on a purely abstract basis (decoration “a la palette”).

Rouen 18th - Private Collection France

As the 17th century continues, France produces ceramics of purely French origin with no Italian influence. The earliest of these were at Rouen. In Rouen the first and probably the most important potter is Masseot Abaquesne (active between 1530-1564) that produced large decorated tiles and pharmacy pots (records exist for 5.000 pots for the pharmacy of Pierre Dubosq in 1545). In the mid 17th century another potter, Edme Poterat produced wares in the compendiario style (three of them inscribed Rouen 1647). By the end of the 17th century Poterat had the monopoly of the pottery production in Rouen after receiving a ‘privilege’ to produce ‘all kinds of tableware in white faience’. Rouen’s success was due to the 3 reasons: the quality of the local clay, the massive melting of the silver orders by Louis XIV in 1709 to pay for the cost of the war with Spain and its relative near distance with Paris that absorbed part of the production.

Moustiers 18th - Private Collection France

At Moustiers in Province, the Clerissy family, the Olerys-Laugier partnership and the Ferrat family produced faiences throughout the 18th century. By the 1720s, production included central medallions that had increased in importance. Other styles included anthropomorphic animals and birds and grotesque zoomorphic figures (Olerys’ pottery). Apart from the usual wares common to all potteries, Moustiers produced powder-boxes and plaques.

In Marseilles the production of faiences started by members of the same Clerissy family that we saw at Moustiers. The manufactory of the Clerissy family was the leading producer of ceramics throughout the 1st half of the 18th century. Faiences of Marseilles suffered greatly from both porcelain manufactures and the spread of creamware from England and France itself and did not survive the revolution.

In NE France, the influence from Germany for French potters is very strong. In Strasburg the key family at the early 18th century is the Hannongs, where Charles-Francois Hannong set up a pottery to produce blue and white wares. In 1732 he handed his business to his two sons Paul-Antoine and Balthazar that became the leading producers till 1779 that the factory closed. Hannongs produced fine figures including Italian comedy subjects, important figures of the time, animals and other themes influenced from the Meissen manufactory.

France 20th - Private Collection France

In 1728 Jacques Chambrette established the first manufactory in Lorraine (Lunéville) that successfully competed with English & German pottery centers. The factory that in 1749 was awarded the status of ‘Manufacture Royale de Fayence’ exported its wares in Italy, Germany, Switzerland, and even the Netherlands. By the end of the 18th century, many factories were installed in the area around Lunéville producing decorative ceramics. Their inspiration was the surroundings, as flowers, insects, animals and exotic figures, Chinese figures (during 19th c). Lunéville production was ended in 1981.

The history of Quimper pottery begins in 1708 by Pierre Bousquet that established the first pottery in the area. Pierre’s production included many religious and decorative items, utilitarian bottles and tableware (known as grès in French), ceramic pipes for smoking tobacco, and other faiences. At the end of the 19th century, Pierre Bousquet’s manufactory was the most important to the area, well known as HB (from Hubaudiere-Bousquet, the names of the descendants). Other factories in the area (founded by former employees of the HB) are the Porquier factory and the Henriot factory (both established at the end of the 18th century).

Bibliography
1. European Pottery, Hugo Morley-Fletcher and Roger Mcilroy (Phaidon – Christie’s Ltd, 1984)
2. European Ceramics, Robin Hildyard (V&A Museum Publishing, 2009)
2. The Metropolitan Museum NY – Web Site
3. Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
4. AntiquesJournal.com – Web Site

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