English pottery history is fascinating. Diverse regional styles. Colorful personalities. International influence. Few European pottery centers can compare. Perhaps Delft, Rhenish stoneware, Italian Maiolica and Hispano-Moresque…
This leaves a pretty big hole right in the middle of Europe. France. If you’re really up on your history, you’d know that much of English slip decoration – marbling, feathering, sgraffito – originated in the wine regions of 13th – 14th century Plantagenet controlled Aquitaine and Normandy. Most authors stick to just mentioning Sévres porcelain and Bernard Palissy.
French peasant pottery, like French wine, was ubiquitous. This ‘redware’ rarely gets a nod. Troyes pottery maybe. Or the venerable pottery villages, chiefly La Bourne, of Poitiers.
Faience permeated France by the early 14th century. It was made everywhere, from obscure places like Sadriac and Amboise to major centers like Havre and Rouen. It’s expansion wasn’t always peaceful. 18th century Lille faience potters almost waged open warfare against Dunkirk upstarts cutting in on Lille’s turf. Even minor faience villages like Roanne would erupt against treaties with England (and devastating imports).
The international porcelain market was cut throat at best. Sévres originated with runaway workmen, its technical know-how stolen via alcoholic subterfuges. But during the Napoleonic Wars enough porcelain from large (Limoges, Sceaux, etc.) and small (Strasbourg, Marseilles, etc.) centers was smuggled into England to seriously disrupt the market.
Women played a noticeable role as well. Hélène de Hangest established an early, and long lived, faience pottery on her estate in Oiron. Hélène’s ardent patronage was key to faience’s spread across France. When Lille potter Jaques Febvrier died in 1729 his widow Marie Barbe Vandepopelière expanded the shop, marketing heavily to Holland. Equally, the unnamed widow of Francois Dorez in Valenciennes continued the trade. When a Lyons faience pottery faltered in 1733 it’s (male) owners ran. Françoise Blateran kept it going until 1758. Did Mme Blateran appear out of thin air? Were “widows” not potters before their husbands’ death?
Anyway, these and many more French potters rarely get the mention they deserve. In English, at least. Much of this abbreviated ‘tour de France’ comes from Albert Jacquemart’s “History of the Ceramic Art” (translated into English, 1873). Then again, Jacquemart’s 613 page “Descriptive and Philosophical Study of the Pottery of All Ages and All Nations” allows 160 pages for French contributions and exactly 5 pages to the whole of English efforts…
History of the Ceramic Art. Albert Jacquemart. Sampson, Low, Martson and Searle/London (English translation). 1873.
Flow Blue: A Closer Look. Jeffrey Snyder. Shiffer Books/New York. 2000.
If These Pots Could Talk. Ivor Noel Hume. University Press of New England/Hanover, NH. 2001.
The Concise Encyclopedia of Continental Pottery and Porcelain. ReginaldHaggar. Hawthorn Books/New York. 1960.
Technorati Tags: French pottery
,Hélène de Hangest
,Marie Barbe Vandepopelière