The Legacy of Bernard Palissy
There is a reason that the statue in front of the National Ceramic Museum in Sevres is that of Bernard Palissy! Probably the most important potter of France and the ultimate "Renaissance Man", often referred to as "The DaVinci of France", Palissy's influence has been celebrated for over 400 years.
Born is Agen in 1510, he spent his first 30 years travelling, studying, observing and becoming proficient as a scientist, engineer, naturalist, painter and geologist. In 1538 he settled in Saintes, married, fathered 6 children and spent the next 15 years struggling against all odds to discover the secret of white enamel.
He succeeded and his work was first recognized by the renowned patron of ceramicists, Anne de Montmorency. It was in 1556, the year of his first 'rustic ceramics' that he was introduced to Henri II, and less than 10 years later Catherine de Medici (widow of King Henri) commissioned him to create a large garden grotto for the palace in the Tuileries.
Palissy moved to Paris but his ardent Protestantism almost prevented his working there until Catherine appointed him "Inventor of Rustic Ware to the King" to keep him from prosecution. In 1585 after the death of Catherine, the protection ended and Palissy was jailed. He starved himself to death in jail, dying there in 1590.
His work was rediscovered in the mid-nineteenth century with the discovery of shards from his workshop in the Tuileries. It was a time in France of great interest in science and the realistic modelling of animals on Palissy's ceramics led to the 25 year "Palissy Revival". Centers of production developed in both Paris and Tours which spread throughout Europe creating a Renaissance for 'rustic ceramics' that are treasured by today's collector as brilliant creations inspired by the father of French pottery