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Puzzle jug

Puzzle jug

  • Place of origin:

    France (made)
    Nevers (Possibly
    For another similar attributed to Nevers and dated 1660-1680 see Jean Rosen, La faïence de Nevers, 2009, vol. II, fig. 379, made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1660-1680 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Tin-glazed earthenware, with pierced neck, painted in colours

  • Credit Line:

    Presented by Lt. Col. K. Dingwall, DSO with Art Fund support

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Europe 1600-1815, Room 5, The Friends of the V&A Gallery, case CA1

The pierced design around the neck of this 'pot trompeur' or puzzle jug makes it impossible to use in a conventional manner as the liquid would spill out. It was intended as an amusing drinking vessel for use in public houses. The hollow handle is connected to a hollow enclosed channel around the neckrim which connects to one or more drinking spouts, through which the drinker could suck the liquid contents of the jug. This example was probably made in Nevers between 1660 and 1680.

The town of Nevers is situated in the centre of France and has been famous for the production of tin-glazed earthenware (called faïence in France and when referring to French pottery of this kind) from the late sixteenth century to the present day. The tradition started following the marriage of Luigi Gonzaga (a descendant of the illustrious family of the rulers of the Italian city state of Mantua) with Henriette of Cleves. This highly cultured ruler who had been raised at the court of the French king, François I, actively encouraged artists from his homeland to come to work in Nevers, and so glassmakers, enamellers, potters and printers colonised the region. Agostino Corrado is the significant name for the development of the faïence industry and he is known in French as Augustin Corrade. Originally from Albissola in the Savona region, this potter went into partnership with a compatriot from Faenza, the painter Giulio Gambini, and created his own pottery in 1574. There is also a definite link with the Italian potters of Lyon and some potters came from there while others came directly from north-western Italy (Liguria) to work at Nevers. An oval dish in the Louvre, signed '1589 Fesi a Nevers ' illustrates that the early work at the pottery was completely in the Italian maiolica tradition and very similar in execution to that of the Lyon potters. They relied on engravings from contemporary publications for the source of their designs and also included grotesque designs, inspired by Raphael's work in the Vatican loggia, in turn based on decoration found in classical Roman ruins which were being rediscovered around the turn of the 16th century.

As the 17th century progressed decoration evolved at Nevers, becoming progressively lighter in style with a greater use of white, often with blue monochrome designs. Coloured decoration based on popular prints in the Italian istoriato style was still produced however. A prediliction for Persian-style motifs came with the Ligurian potters from Italy who routinely used scattered naturalistic motifs painted in varying tones of blue. A number of items in monochrome blue from the second third of the 17th century have scattered decoration of birds, animals and insects, very occasionally signed 'de conrade a nevers '. A new and original style of decoration developed at Nevers comprising a rich dark blue glaze, called 'bleu persan', often used with white and ochre floral decoration painted over the glaze. Nevers was the first French faïence pottery to introduce chinese-style decoration from about 1660, with figure scenes painted in monochrome blue or blue and manganese. These scenes copy contemporary or slighter earlier Chinese decoration, and are sometimes combined with typical north Italian naturalistic elements (derived ultimately from Persian pottery). Chinese porcelain had begun to enter Europe on a more regular basis since the establishment of the Dutch East India Company in 1602 and these items, reproduced by Dutch potteries in Delft, certainly influenced production at Nevers, although it is also possible the Nevers potters had direct access to Chinese wares. The simple floral decoration on this puzzle jug would seem to derive from the more homely style of Delft pottery decorated with stylised tulips which was also very influential in France and northern Europe. The mid seventeenth century was the heyday of production at Nevers when a great variety of painted and moulded wares in many different styles were made.

Physical description

Jug of earthenware painted with enamels. Globular body with a wide flaring neck pierced with rosettes. Hollow loop handle and rim with a short spout. In front of the body is a tulip between leaf sprays.

Place of Origin

France (made)
Nevers (Possibly
For another similar attributed to Nevers and dated 1660-1680 see Jean Rosen, La faïence de Nevers, 2009, vol. II, fig. 379, made)


ca. 1660-1680 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Tin-glazed earthenware, with pierced neck, painted in colours


Height: 164 mm, Diameter: 102 mm, Width: 162 mm Approximate, measured by Conservation

Descriptive line

Puzzle jug, tin-glazed earthenware painted in colours, France, possibly Nevers, ca. 1660-1680

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Chefs-D'Oeuvre de la Faïence du Musée de Saint-Omer, 1988. See no. 20, p. 25, a 'pot a surprise' of similar type said to be Delft, late 17th century. See also no. 170, p. 133 for a vase with a similar style of painted floral decoration attributed to Nevers, 17th century.
Jean Rosen La faïence de Nevers 1585-1900, Editions Faton, Dijon, 2009, Volume 2, see fig. 379, 256 p. for a puzzle jug of the same shape in a private collection. It is decorated with a different flower but with the same exaggerated style of painting the leaves. It is dated in the caption 1660-1680.




Painted; Pierced

Subjects depicted

Tulip; Rosette; Leaves


Ceramics; Earthenware


Ceramics Collection

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