Palissy rusticware featuring casts of sea life French 1550

French Palissy ware dish, c 1550

"Palissy ware" is a nineteenth-century term for ceramics produced in the style of the famous French potter Bernard Palissy (c 1510-1590), 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 motifs in high relief, was much imitated by other potters both in his own lifetime and especially in the nineteenth century, when imitations were 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 and the Mafra Pottery, as well as many conscious fakes;[1] it is now difficult to identify which 16th century works in the rustique manner are actually by Palissy's own workshop except by comparison with either fragments excavated in 1878 from remains of the grotto he certainly decorated at the Tuileries Palace for Catherine de' Medici, who called him to Paris in 1566[2] 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 modelled, often aquatic, animals such as snakes, fish, lizards, frogs and snails, arranged onto large platters. Typically, each component is modelled and painted individually.


  1. John Fleming and Hugh Honour, The Penguin Dictionary of the Decorative Arts 1977, s.v. "Bernard Palissy".
  2. Conserved in the Musée du Louvre.

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