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Palissy: a pottery fit for kings.

Byline: Mike Litherland of Outhwaite and Litherland auctioneers

WE RECENTLY sold an interesting and very typical item of Palissy ware.

This was first produced by Bernard Palissy (1510-1590) and was so admired that in 1563 he was named King''s Inventor of rustic ceramics and in 1567 he was summoned by Catherine de Medici to decorate her palace.

Born in southern France, Palissy worked as a painter and surveyor but one day he spotted an earthen cup of such beauty that he spent the next several years trying to make perfect ceramics of his own.

According to account he at one point was so poor and desperate he fed his kiln with household furniture and, with a wife and family to support, times were difficult.

Palissy eventually found fame, not to mention the ability to support his family, for a type of pottery covered with life-sized replicas of amphibians, reptiles, shells, bugs and plants.

The plants and animals in Palissy ware were so accurate because he cast them from life. Palissy wasn''t the first to cast animals from life, but his work was particularly prized, and he jealously guarded his methods. He also swore his sons to secrecy.

For over 40 years he took the same basic approach to his work, making one pond scene teeming with life after another.

His work as a naturalist went largely unappreciated until the 18th century when, amongst others, Jose Alves Cunha founded a Palissy movement in Portugal and established a small factory in the town of Caldas da Rainha in 1860.

Adopting the Palissy style, he was also known for his rendition of the famous cabbage leaf tea service with snake handles, a Portuguese design originating at the Royal Ceramic Factory in Lisbon in the latter 18th century. Among Palissy followers, Cunha was one of the most important. He retired in the mid-1880s, although his date of death is unknown.

The charger shown here is modelled in typical manner with snake, salamanders, butterflies, worms and beetle circa 1860-1885 and sold for PS520.

Here''s some exciting news about a rather interesting Outhwaite & Litherland forthcoming sale. Remember the old days when house sales were the norm? Well this sale is rather larger ... a stately house. Dates and times need to be confirmed, but keep reading this column. I''m sure this will be of great interest to many people.

If you have items you wish to enter into our next sale don''t forget we have a free valuation day at our Southport office every Friday 10.30am-12.30pm or 2-4pm. If you can''t make it just email a photo to, call 01704 538489 to speak to one of our valuers or we can come to you.


RUSTIC: A Palissy ware charger, circa 1860-1885 which sold for PS520
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Mar 23, 2013
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