Bernard Palissy, the Famous French Potter, and his Works

Charles A. Brassler
1910 Scientific American  
France and Germany, keeping this object in view and studying, for this purpose, geology and natural his tory, supporting himself in the meantime by working as a land surveyor_ About 1539, however, he settled at Saintes and here, while engaged in his calling, he began his systematic researches into the> manufacture of pottery and the composition of enamels. It was here, he says in his book, "L' Art de -la terre," "that without considering that I had no knowledge of argi laceous earths, I began
more » ... s earths, I began my researches into enamels, like one who gropes in the dark." An enameled cup of faience which came into his hands inspired him with the determination to discover a method of producing white enamel, and for nearly sixteen years, neglecting almost everything else, he devoted his time and attention to investigations and experiments in this direction. During this period, doubtless, he made the -discoveries as to colorings, glazes, etc., that laid the fou�dation for his future success. His first attempts were unsuccessful, but he pursued his researches with unparalleled persis tence and energy, sacrificing everything to what was then considered more or less of a chimera, and to what brought him no profit. He exhausted all his resources, and lacking fuel for the firing of his kilns, was reduced to the necessity of burning piece by piece his household furniture. Ridiculed by his neigh-Portrait -of -Pallssy. ,From an old French miniature on vellum at Cluny. A enp and pitcher made by Bernard Pallssy and now preserved in the Louvre. PaIissy's reproduction in pottery of one of Brlot's masterpieces. The Temperentla plate. bors, bitterly reproached by his wife and tormented by the cries of his hungry children, he nevertheless perse vered, until finally, when reduced to the last desper ate extremities, success rewarded his efforts. Unlike most of the investigators and experimental ists of his time, Palissy had conducted his labors sys tematically, and when he attained his object, he was able to repeat his work and obtain the same results. A few vessels, ornamented with life-like representa tions of reptiles, insects and small animals and col ored true to nature, were a revelation to the ceram ists of those times and brought prices tbat soon en abled him to forget the hardships through which he had fought his way to success. He continued and per fected his researches and soon became famous, win ning favor with the nobility and royalty, in the em bellishment of whose palaces his genius was chiefiy employed. This friendship stood him in good stead at the time of the massacre of St. Bartholomew, when the powerful'protection of Queen Catherine and Anne de Montmorency, wife of the constable, saved him from the fate that befell so many of his fellow Hugu� nots, for Palissy had embraced the reformed faith. A man of studious habits and keen intelligence, Palissy was among the earliest of French scientists to substitute for the fables and fanciful theories of so-called philosophers, hard facts, that were capable of practical demonstration. In 1575 he commenced the delivery of a course of lectures on natural history and physics, in which he gave a correct account of the origin of springs, the formation of stones and fossil shells, and advanced theories as to the best methods of purifying water, the use of marl as fer-(Continued on page 133.) Pitcher belonging to the famous Temperentla basin and two candlesticks, aU in the Louvre. Large platter embellished with reptiles, fishes and shells made by Bernard Palissy. "La Bl'Ue Jardiniere," a famous plate by Palissy preserved in the Cluny Museum. BEBNABD PALI88Y, TlIE FA.OlTS FBEliClI POTTEB, AND ms WOBES.
doi:10.1038/scientificamerican02051910-125 fatcat:2mghi2a66ramvhsdpoflagsp6q