One of the early settlers of the village of Tarrytown, New York, was a French potter named Claude Requa. He settled there in 1729 after fleeing from his native France. He was a Huguenot, a French Calvinist. At the time, Huguenots were being rounded up by French authorities and given a choice: convert to Catholicism, or life in prison. Over a century before, King Henry IV signed the Edict of Nantes, guaranteeing religious tolerance. But Henry was now gone, and so was the edict. Huguenot potters like Requa, and his more famous predecessor Bernard Pallisy, were fair game. Pallisy ended up dying in the Bastille of Lyons in 1589.
But Requa got away. He and his family gave up everything to spend the rest of their life in a foreign country. An excavation of the Requa pottery site in Tarrytown revealed many earthenware shards with geometric patterns slip trailed on them. There was only one exception: An almost complete platter with the word “Peace” trailed on it.
I have often thought of this platter. Today, if one sees “Peace” trailed onto a plate, they might think “Yeah, like, peace-out dude.” But what was Requa trying to say? Had he finally found peace? Was he still looking for it? Was it his testament and warning to the world? Was it his cherished wish for his fellow humans?
Whatever his motives, I am sure that this must have been a very powerful word to him. I find that thought very moving.
Domestic Pottery of the Northeastern United States, 1625-1850. Sarah Peabody Turnbaugh ed. Academic Press/New York. 1985.