Bernard Palissy (ca. 1510–1590)
Ewer, Saint-porchaire ware, ca. 1545–65
Purchased through the Sidney R. Knafel Fund, 2015 (2015.9.01)
Since the mid-nineteenth century, Renaissance Italian bronze statuettes, maiolica wares, Limoges enamels, and French sixteenth-century ceramics have belonged to the category of objects that every serious art collector in Europe hoped to own, their value and association with royal and noble provenance bestowing upon their owners an aura of cultivation and taste. The greatest collections were assembled by Sir Richard Wallace, George Salting, Frederic Spitzer, and several members of the Rothschild family, among others. Henry Clay Frick, who emulated these Europeans, acquired in 1915 most of John Pierpont Morgan’s renowned collection of Italian bronzes and Limoges enamels. Three years later, he completed his Renaissance collection of sculpture and decorative arts with the acquisition of a Saint-Porchaire ewer that is related to a small group of elaborate French sixteenth-century ceramics. Only about seventy authentic pieces of Saint-Porchaire are known today, making them exceedingly rare. In March, with the generous support of Trustee Sidney R. Knafel, the Frick purchased an unusual Saint-Porchaire ewer decorated with a lizard spout and a handle in the shape of a bearded man. The ewer has a prestigious provenance, having descended in the French branch of the Rothschild family, and research connects the ewer to the famed ceramicist Bernard Palissy, which makes it a particularly exciting acquisition for the museum. The ewer is on view in the Enamels Room with the Frick’s example of Saint-Porchaire.