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Home | Centuries | The 16th century - Protestants in the arts and letters – Literature in the 16th century | Bernard Palissy (1510-1590)
Bernard Palissy (1510-1590)
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This earthenware crockery artist remained loyal to the Reformed faith and paid for it with his life.


An avid researcher
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 Slide show 

He was born in Lacapelle-Biron near Agen around 1510. He travelled and then settled in Saintes. At first he was a glassmaker and then dedicated the next sixteen years of his life to the rediscovery of enamelled earthenware. Contrary to what was believed, he did not burn his furniture. However, he readily gave away the wooden frame which supported the grapevine in his backyard. Being one of these curious minds typical of the Renaissance, he put experience above theory. He was a chemist, a geologist and an alchemist.

He turned to the Reformation in 1546. In 1555, he followed Hamelin as the leader of a small reformed community in Saintonge ; this led to his arrest and imprisonment in Bordeaux. Catherine De Medicis protected him and gave him the responsibility of improving the Tuileries Gardens and of building a rudimentary grotto there. He was given the title of "inventor of the king's rustic figurines".

In 1563, he was arrested under the charge of heresy. In 1572, he escaped the Saint Bartholomew massacre and took refuge in Sedan. In 1579, he came back to Paris and gave a public lecture about his research and observations. In 1587, after the edict of Nemours, he was obliged to go into hiding but fell into the hands of the League and, refusing to abjure, was imprisoned in the Bastille prison where he died in 1590. His body was thrown to the dogs.

Go to top Enamelled earthenware
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Bernard Palissy created potteries decorated with raised vegetal, animal or arabesque patterns. These are on display in a number of museums, among which the Louvre. Some pieces of his pottery and the remnants of his workshop were discovered by chance in the XIXth century and, later on, in the 1980s, when excavations began with the building of the Grand Louvre.

He left behind such scientific works as "Wonderful conversations of natural and artificial fountains of the earth", ("Discours admirable de la nature des eaux et fontaines de la terre, tant naturelles qu'artificielles") (Paris, Martin Le Jeune, 1580).

    Bernard Palissy's quote :
    "I have not had any other book than the earth and the sky ; a beautiful book known to all and available to all to read" ("Je n'ai point eu d'autre livre que le ciel et la terre, lequel est connu de tous et est donné à tous de connaître et lire ce beau livre").
Bibliography
Books
Association des Amis d'Agrippa d'Aubigné, Actes du Colloguqe Bernard Palissy (1510-1590) : L'écrivain, le réformé, le céramiste, Cahiers d'Aubigné, Albinéana 4, 1992, Albineana, 1992
AUDIAT, Louis, Bernard Palissy, études sur sa vie et ses travaux, Didier, Paris, 1868
BOUDON-DUANER, Marguerite, Bernard Palissy, le potier du roi, La Cause, Paris, 1989
GASCAR, Pierre, Les secrets de Maître Bernard : Bernard Palissy et son temps, Gallimard, Paris, 1980
GIBBON, Alain, Céramiques de Bernard Palissy, Librairie Séguier, Paris, 1986
LESTRINGANT, Frank, (édité par), Bernard Palissy 1510-1590, l'écrivain, le réformé, le céramiste, actes du Colloque Bernard Palissy, Journées d'études, Saintes, Abbaye-aux-dames, 29 et 30 juin 1990, Éditions Inter-Universitaires Amis d'Agrippa d'Aubigné, 1992
NICOLLE, Jacques, Bernad Palissy, l'homme à la recherche d'un secret, Seghers, Paris, 1966
PALISSY, Bernard, Oeuvres complètes, Sous la direction de Marie-Madeleine Fragonard, Honoré Champion, Paris, 2010
Revue
Les nouvelles de la Cause
LIENHARDT, Paul, Cinquième jubilé séculaire de Maître Bernard (1510-1590), April 2010
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