The Great Ceramist Bernard Palissy's Techniques: Platter in Metropolitan Museum of Art
Several weeks ago as I was wandering through the Metropolitan Museum of Art, a relief oval dish by Bernard Palissy (1510 - 1590) shook me (Figure 1). The French ceramist special treatment of three dimensional objects placed on a plate, in other word, a relief sculpture but in arial view. As I looked closer, I realized the artist was depicting a marine life form for the theme of the Platter which was irrational at that time.
The Platter was a tin glazed earthernware, referred to as faience in France, a name originated from Faenza from Florence 1, produced in the last quarter of the 16th century. Palissy employed the technique of lead glaze to which tin oxide has been added. The tin oxide generates a white glaze that covered the platter and provides smooth surfaces for painted decoration 2.
The knowledge of the technique was from Spain and Italy as early as late thirteenth century 3.
Palissy's style reflected the influence of Mannerism during the Renaissance period. The platter contained strangely realistic depicted snakes, lizards, frogs, fish, shells, flowers and other natural objects, sculptured in high relief with a trompe l'oeil notion. A term, figulines rustiques 4, was used by Palissy to his work decorated with relief forms. The combination of color scheme lifelike way in greenish-blue, white, grey, brown and yellow matched perfectly with the natural watery environmental setting in a pond. The idea of placing slimy animals and insects seemed in contradiction to delicious food on a plate.
Similar to most of Mannerism artist, Palissy was trying to make a statement to traditional ceramic disciplines. In comparison to a Mannerism architect, Giulio Romano had teased Renaissance by breaking the rules of dignitas, separation of parts and...