Palissy ware

French Palissy ware dish, c. 1550

Palissy ware is a 19th-century term for ceramics produced in the style of the famous French potter Bernard Palissy (c. 1510–90), who referred to his own work in the familiar manner as rustique. Palissy's distinctive style of polychrome lead-glazed earthenware in a sombre earth-toned palette, using naturalistic scenes of plants and animals cast from life,[1] was much imitated by other potters both in his own lifetime and especially in the 19th century, when pottery in Palissy's style was produced by Charles-Jean Avisseau of Tours, who rediscovered Palissy's techniques in 1843, his relatives the Landais family of Tours, Georges Pull of Paris, Maurice, and Barbizet.

French Palissy ware dish, 17.7ins., c.1870, maker Barbizet, depicting fish, reptiles, insects and leaves.
Portuguese Palissy ware wall plate 12.2ins., c.1880, maker Jose F Sousa depicting crayfish, mussels, sea urchin and shells.

Portuguese Palissy ware was produced by the potteries of Mafra, Jose A. Cuhna, Alves, José Francisco de Sousa, Cezar, Herculano Elias, and Augusto Baptista de Carvalho.[2] Twentieth-century reproductions are extremely common.[3] it is now difficult to identify which 16th-century works in the rustique manner are actually from Palissy's own workshop except by comparison with either fragments excavated in 1878 from remains of the grotto that he certainly decorated at the Tuileries Palace for Catherine de' Medici, who called him to Paris in 1566[4] or from excavations at the site of his Paris workshop in the Palais du Louvre. Many museums have now become cautious in their attributions.

This distinctive style of pottery is characterized by three-dimensional modeled, often aquatic, animals such as snakes, fish, lizards, frogs, and snails arranged onto large platters (wall plates, wall platters, chargers). Typically, each component is modeled and painted individually.

The name Palissy ware was also given by Minton & Co to their new range of polychrome lead-glazed pottery: “…what is now known as majolica was a range of brightly coloured low-temperature glazes launched in 1849 as 'Palissy Ware'. Only later did these become known as majolica ware.”.[5]


  1. Hanna Rose Shell, "Casting Life, Recasting Experience: Bernard Palissy's Occupation between Maker and Nature" (2004) Project MUSE.
  2. Marshall P. Katz, Portuguese Palissy Ware: A Survey of Ceramics from Caldas da Rainha, 1853–1920 (1999).
  3. John Fleming and Hugh Honour, The Penguin Dictionary of the Decorative Arts (1977), s.v. "Bernard Palissy".
  4. Conserved in the Musée du Louvre.
  5. Victoria and Albert Museum, London
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