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Tile pavement section

Tile pavement section

  • Place of origin:

    Brioude (probably, made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1250-1300 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Tin-glazed earthenware, painted

  • Credit Line:

    Given by J.H. Fitzhenry, Esq.

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Medieval & Renaissance, Room 9, The Dorothy and Michael Hintze Gallery, case 1

In southern France, the manufacture of painted tin-glazed floor tiles seems to have been practised at isolated sites from the mid-13th century. Though relatively uncommon, these appear to have been the standard type of decorated tile in this part of France, where inlaid tiles are rare. This section of pavement, which comes from the collegiate church of Saint-Julien at Brioude, represents one of the earliest examples of the use of this type of floor tile.

Physical description

The panel consists of five rectangular compartments, three complete and two incomplete. The former are decorated with a shield, charged with a chief in purple, and set obliquely within a circle or quatrefoil which is surrounded by Gothic foliage enclosed by a large quatrefoil. The whole decoration is in white, outlined with purple on a green ground.

Place of Origin

Brioude (probably, made)


ca. 1250-1300 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Tin-glazed earthenware, painted


Width: 12.1 cm each tile, approx.

Object history note

From the collegiate church of Saint-Julien in Brioude, France, or more probably, a neighbouring Deanery of the church. Norton (2000) comments that, whether the heraldry is that of a Canon of the church, or of one of its patrons, it would have enhanced the social and cultural status of the institution through its language of chivalry.

At the time of acquisition, these tiles were considered to be 15th century.
An article (see Molinier in Refs) published in 1900 describes the tiles as 14th century.
The Registers contain a letter from the curator of the Musée Crozatier in Ville de Puy-en-Velay, dated 1 June 1960. The curator informs us that they possess 9 tiles from the same set and have sent photographs [unknown where these photos are]. He says that according to the inventory of Maleque, dated around 1890, these tiles come from an old manor house in Brioude. He doesn't doubt this attribution although it doesn't record the precise place. He mentions that the Chapter House in the church of St Julien de Brioude was destroyed in the 16th century and possibly these tiles were transferred to a grand house. Unfortunately, none of these houses seem to have survived into the 19th century so this explains the vagueness of the inventory but also means this cannot be substantiated. He believes the arms to belong to a knightly canon from a Solignac family. Their arms are emblazoned:
argent, chief gules.
He has consulted George Paul's Armorial général...di Velay... and sees that these arms could belong to any number of this family and unfortunately we don't have their birth and death dates.
Arthur Lane responded to this letter and noted that Fitzhenry used to pick up objects in France and offer them to the museum. It was he who said the tiles were from St Julien but with no information on how he obtained them. Lane then goes on to say that he believes the tiles to date no later than the first half of the 14th century.

There is also another letter in the Register from Rackham to a Mons. Nicaise in Brussels, dated 11 February 1937. Rackham said he used to think they were Italian because of their resemblance to green and brown Orvieto ware and so dated them to the 15th century [note: all Italian tin-glaze used to be thought to date no earlier than the 15th century]. However, he noted that the style is earlier and the shape of the shield and the type of foliage could be 13th century.or possibly early 14th century. He then goes on to say that he wonders whether the designs on the tiles were copied in the 15th century from some earlier existing ornament in the church such as wall paintings or stained glass windows. He also speculates that the tiles could have been made on the spot by an itinerant Italian potter but doesn't think this theory holds up well.

Historical significance: The remarkably early date of this group of tiles makes it perhaps the earliest known example of its type - namely painted tin-glazed tiles - in France.

Historical context note

In southern France, manufacture of tin-glazed painted floor tiles seems to have been practised at isolated sites from the middle of the thirteenth century. Though relatively scarce, these appear to have been the standard type of decorated tile in this part of France, where inlaid tiles are rare.

Descriptive line

Nine tiles from a group of thirty-nine. Buff earthenware with a tin glaze and decoration painted in green and purple, including an unidentified coat of arms.From the Church of St Julien, Brioude (Haute Loire). French, 1250-1300.

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

Graves, Alun. Tiles and Tilework of Europe. London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 2002, fig 2.22, pp41-2.
Norton, Christopher. Medieval tin-glazed painted tiles in north-west Europe. Medieval Archaeology. vol.28, 1984, pp133-172.
Norton, E. Christopher. De l'Aquitaine à l'Artois: carreaux stannifères et carreaux plombifères des XIIIe et XIVe siècles en France. In: Images du Pouvoir: Pavements du Faïence en France du XIIe au XVIIe siècle Bourg-en-Bresse: Musée de Brou / Paris: Réunion de musées nationaux, 2000, pp38-39.
Molinier, E., '?', Gazette des Beaux-Arts, XXIV (1900)
Hudig, Ferrand W., Althollandische Fliesen, Leipzig, 1934
Lane, Arthur, French Faience, London: Faber & Faber, 1948
Rosen, Jean. La faïence française du XIIIe au XVIIe siècle. Dossier de l'Art. October 2000, no. 70.

Labels and date

Panel of thirty-nine Tiles of enamelled buff-coloured earthenware, painted in green and manganese-purple. From the Church of St. Julien, Brioude, Haute Loire. French, 15th century.
Given by J.H. Fitzhenry, Esq. []

Production Note

The tiles are datable on stylistic grounds by virtue of their stiff-leafed Gothic foliage.




Ceramics Collection

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