A leading ceramicist of the French Renaissance, Bernard Palissy stayed true to the tradition of medieval glazed pottery. He was known for his technique of molding the shapes of animals and plants and using a coat of lead glaze, colored with metal oxides, to cover the relief without blunting it. In 1556, the process earned him the title of “inventor of rustic figurines for the King and the Queen Mother." This large bowl, of which the Museum of Fine Arts has another copy, is one of the rarest of Palissy’s authenticated pieces. Land animals and salt- and fresh-water creatures arranged on mossy rocks are evocative of an ideal of nature. Inhabiting the bowl are thirty-three animals belonging to nine identifiable species of reptiles, batrachia, fish, and crustaceans, whose arrangement creates an illusion of symmetry: a frog followed by two green lizards and, on the other side, a gurnard flanked by two pairs of freshwater turtles and snakes. Three other snakes coiled up in the background mark the axis of the composition, which is completed by a scattering of small creatures: frogs, fish, crabs, lizards, and a crayfish.


  • Title: Pod-shaped bowl
  • Creator: Bernard Palissy
  • Physical Location: Lyon, France
  • Physical Dimensions: L. 75,5 ; l. 45,5 ; H. 13,8 cm
  • Provenance: Acquired in 1810
  • Medium: High fired terra-cotta with lead glaze
  • Rights: Image © Lyon MBA - Photo Alain Basset
  • Date: 16th century

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