Oval Basin
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Attributed to Bernard Palissy
French, Paris, about 1550
Lead-glazed earthenware
18 7/8 x 14 1/2 in.

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A man of many interests and talents, Bernard Palissy developed his distinctive "rustic-ware," such as this basin, by casting shellfish, plants, and reptiles from life. He then attached them to traditional ceramic forms and decorated these objects with runny, lead-based glazes, increasing their watery realism.

During his own lifetime, Palissy's works were highly popular. Such influential patrons as Anne de Montmorency and Catherine de' Medici, Queen of France, commissioned him to decorate grottoes in their private gardens, settings for diversion and contemplation in the 1500s. Palissy's rustic works were so successful that they were imitated during his own lifetime. In the 1800s, such notable ceramic factories as Sèvres in France and Wedgwood in England also copied them.