Precious Ceramic Plaque by Bernard Palissy

Inventory Number: 107978



The exquisite plate in polychrome ceramic is attributed to the French ceramicist and chemist Bernard Palissy (1510-1589). At the center is depicted a female figure similar to a deity in the Greco-Roman style. In her right hand she holds a cornucopia, the symbol of abundance and happiness. In her other hand she holds a crown to indicate wealth and royalty. This woman, who is partly covered by a curtain, stands below a small, winged angel and is surrounded by figures of flying animals, probably birds of prey, and masculine faces. Along the border, a series of cameos of human faces, now slightly worn away by age, enriches the decoration that is already exquisite thanks to such vivid colors.

The use of animal representations, a characteristic particular to Palissy, was often used in relief work. Very much in vogue at the end of the 1500s, this artistic trend spread throughout Europe, gaining popularity especially in French salons.

Catherine de Medici, Queen of France was a great admirer of Palissy, to the point that she commissioned him to design a private grotto in her garden near the Palazzo delle Tuileries in 1564. On the back of this piece is a paper label with the writing: “Plate provenient da l’ancienne Abbaye de Bégard” (Plate originating from the old Abbey of Bégard.) Currently the Ethnological Museum is under renovation, but it is expected that this piece will return on display in the near future.