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  • Place of origin:

    France (made)

  • Date:

    1580-1600 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Palissy, Bernard, born 1510 - died 1590 (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Lead-glazed earthenware, moulded, with applied decoration

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    British Galleries, Room 122, case 1

Object Type
This jug, or ewer, was acquired in 1860 by the Museum at a time when the cult status of the French Renaissance potter Bernard Palissy (1509/1510-about 1590) was rapidly escalating in Britain and France. Acquired as part of the Jules Soulages Collection, the Palissy wares were described as 'a series of the highest aesthetic value ... (A)ccess to such examples must improve the taste of the people'. Although now known to be by a follower rather than by the great ceramicist himself, this ewer bears all the hallmarks of Palissy's own wares of around 1575-1590. In the 19th century the ownership of a work by Palissy would have been the crowning glory of an antiquarian's collection.

Bernard Palissy was the most celebrated of French potters. At his death he was followed by a school of imitators and was elevated to romantic, heroic status in the 19th century. The cult of Palissy gradually developed between the 17th century and the 19th: his immediate followers, working in his technique and style, confused the identification of any possibly genuine production. His writings were published in highly censored form in the 17th century and then unedited in the 18th century. In the 19th century it became impossible to separate the man from the myth that had grown up around him. This myth was as enthusiastically cherished in Britain as in France, not least owing to Minton's own Palissy-ware. In the Museum he was awarded a window of his own in the Ceramic Gallery (now the Silver Gallery), in company with Luca della Robbia (1399/1400-1482) and Josiah Wedgwood (1730-1795).

Design & Designing
Although he was a great self-publicist, whose name is associated with several different types of ceramic, and although some moulds still exist, there are very few ceramic works surviving that are known to be by Palissy himself and his atelier. Perhaps best-known of the ceramics associated with him are those original and innovative wares called 'rustic', which incorporate cast elements such as leaves, reptiles and water creatures. These were developed in response to the fashion for Italian-style grottoes introduced into France in the mid-16th century. But Palissy was also a skilful interpreter in ceramic of classical Renaissance ornament of strapwork, masks, grotesques and panels enclosing scenes of classical figures as allegories.

Place of Origin

France (made)


1580-1600 (made)


Palissy, Bernard, born 1510 - died 1590 (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Lead-glazed earthenware, moulded, with applied decoration


Height: 27.5 cm, Width: 23.4 cm, Depth: 16.5 cm, Weight: 1.18 kg

Descriptive line

Ewer or jug with mask under spout, Bernard Palissy, France, 1580-1600

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

Hunt, Tristram & Whitfield, Victoria. Art Treasures in Manchester: 150 years on. Manchester: Philip Wilson Publishers, 2007. 37p., ill ISBN 9780901673725

Labels and date

British Galleries:
MINTON JUG based on a 16th-century model

The designers and decorators of pottery and porcelain for the firm of Minton & Co. used collections in private houses and museums extensively as a source of inspiration. Minton were inspired by the V&A's collections to recreate many of their historic styles and techniques. The Minton jug is modelled directly after the Palissy jug shown next to it, which was displayed at Marlborough House from 1856. [27/03/2003]


Ceramics; Earthenware


Ceramics Collection

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