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  • Place of origin:

    Paris (possibly, made)
    Fontainebleau (possibly, made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1547-1559 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

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

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Lead-glazed earthenware; techniques include throwing, hand modelling, moulding, stamping, incising and inlay work

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Medieval & Renaissance, Room 62, The Foyle Foundation Gallery, case 15

This elaborate candlestick is one of about seventy surviving pieces in a mannerist style characteristic of French court fashion around 1550. Although known as Saint-Porchaire ware, these pieces were manufactured probably in or near Paris rather than at the village of Saint-Porchaire. The way in which they combine different components in several tiers is more typical of contemporaneous metalwork and architectural design than of pottery.

By 1842 these pieces were described as "faïence de Henri II" because the emblems of the French king and his wife, Catherine de' Medici, together with those, as was then thought, of his mistress Diane de Poitiers, appear on more than one example. Because of its presumed royal connection, its style, its technical complexity, and its rarity, Saint-Porchaire ware became the type of ceramic most sought after by collectors, along with so-called Medici porcelain.

Physical description

Elaborate candlestick of lead-glazed earthenware on a wide base and composed of several tiers; decorations of the cypher of King Henry II, the arms of France, figures and patterns coloured in red, green and blue against a light background.

Place of Origin

Paris (possibly, made)
Fontainebleau (possibly, made)


ca. 1547-1559 (made)


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

Materials and Techniques

Lead-glazed earthenware; techniques include throwing, hand modelling, moulding, stamping, incising and inlay work


Height: 32 cm, Width: 17 cm

Object history note

Historical significance: The light-coloured clay of Saint-Porchaire produced a uniquely pale and desirable ceramic. However, the chemical composition of the clay rendered it extremely vulnerable during firing, which resulted in the need for small-scale decoration. Such labour-intensive and exquisite work was available only to the most wealthy patrons. Although a certain amount of mystery surrounds the origin of these pieces, it is thought they would have had a market in only the most noble and courtly circles; an association confirmed by the armorial device of Henri II on this candlestick. This suggests that Paris, and possibly the atelier of Bernard Palissy, was their most likely source, not the village of Saint-Porchaire.

Historical context note

The rare and enigmatic group of ceramics known as 'Saint-Porchaire' is distinguished by the uncommon lightness of its clay body and their elaborate decoration. The Mannerist ornament of ceramic objects, such as these, can be related to contemporary metalwork designs and architectural fantasies.

Descriptive line

Candlestick, lead-glazed earthenware with tiered decorations, French, Paris or Fontainebleau, ca.1550.

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

Baker, Malcolm, and Brenda Richardson (eds.), A Grand Design: The Art of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London: V&A Publications, 1999.
Thierry Crépin-Leblond, Une Orfèvrerie de Terre: Bernard Palissy et la céramique de Saint-Porchaire, Pairs 1997


Earthenware; Lead glaze


Throwing; Modelling (forming); Moulding; Stamping; Incising; Inlay (process)

Subjects depicted

Cherubs; Masks (design elements); Figures; Crests


Ceramics; Earthenware; Figures & Decorative ceramics


Ceramics Collection

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