A-Z of Ceramics - P is for Palissy
Bernard Palissy (born about 1509/10, died about 1585) was a colourful and romantic character. Although patronised by the Catholic nobility, he was a militant Huguenot (Protestant) who finally perished in the Bastille. In the 19th century he was revered almost as much as a Protestant martyr as a master potter. In the 1850s parts of Palissy's fabled rustic grotto made for Catherine de Medici were found during excavations for the Louvre.
By using revolutionary colours, and moulds cast from actual animals and plants, Palissy had invented an entirely new type of ware. He was a great self-publicist and wrote dramatic accounts of his struggles to develop clays and glazes, an obsession that condemned his family to poverty.
His work was often copied, from the 17th century right up to the 19th century. This makes the identification of genuine Palissy wares very difficult. Unmarked Palissy-type ceramics made by unidentified workshops in the 17th and 18th centuries are sometimes designated 'school, or follower, of Palissy'. In the 19th century historicising French potters such as Charles-Jean Avisseau (1796-1861) and Joseph Landais (1800-83) made and signed similar wares.