Precious Ceramic Plaque by Bernard Palissy

This valuable polychrome enameled ceramic plate, restored thanks to the generosity of Mses. Veronika & Franziska Nicholson, members of the Texas Chapter,  is teaserbox_2450005363attributed to the French chemist and ceramist Bernard Palissy (1510-1589). The center of the plate displays the representation of a female figure linked to a Greco-Roman divinity image; the right hand holds a cornucopia, symbol of abundance and happiness. The left hand contains a crown which signifies a regal symbol of wealth. The figure is partially covered by drapery and is accompanied by a winged angel and surrounded by a series of rapacious flying creatures alternating with masculine faces. A herd of camels flank the border, centered by human faces which have been consumed by time and which furnish an especially elaborate decoration enhanced by a notable use of color.

attr. a Bernard Palissy (1510-1590); Piatto ovale in maiolica policroma lavorata a rilievo; sec. XVI; Musei Vaticani; Museo Missionario Etnologico; Inv. 107978

The use of the animal theme is a particular characteristic of Palissy, which is countered by a strong use of relief, almost all circular. This kind of artistic work was extremely fashionable in the 1500’s and spread throughout Europe and was particularly appreciated by the French salons. Palissy’s work was greatly esteemed by Catherine de Medici, Queen of France, to the point that she commissioned him in 1564 to design a private grotto in her garden at the Tuileries Palace in Paris.

On the back of the plate is a paper label that reads:

“Plate provenient da l’ancienne Abbaye de Bégard”

(Plate from the ancient Abbey of Bégard)



The plate was in an average state of conservation. The ceramic surface showed small breaks, lesions, chipping and loss of enamel, cracks, glue deposits and also displayed areas where the enamel was protruding from the ceramic base. The principal damage was caused by the corrosion of the three metal graphs inserted, through holes, inside the ceramic body. These were used to unite the broken areas. This was an ancient and common method of repair, called “puntatura” (pointing) used by the master potters in the past. On the back of the plate, through a small hole, a cord (now extremely frayed) had been inserted in order to hang the work on the wall. The restoration consisted in a complete photographic documentation on the condition of the work whic was done before, during and after the conservation. Also a graphic documentation was carried out, in order to record the complete process and various scientific analysis were performed by the Diagnostic Laboratory for Conservation and Restoration: these include x-ray images, infrared analysis to verify color, XRF (fluorescent X analysis), FTIR (Infrared Spectrometry analysis ). The surface was cleaned using a swab with de-ionized water and pure alcohol and the restorer, Tina Cuozzo, completed a mechanical removal of the rusted iron staffs. This caused no damage to the ceramic body. Afterwards, she proceeded with the consolidation of fractures and lesions on the ceramic using a epoxy adhesive and repairing holes with cellulose filler. The final steps of the restoration consisted in the paint reintegration of the fillings using acrylics and watercolors. As historic testimony, the decision was made to leave the paper label on the back of the plate with the text that attests to the geographic provenance.