In the late seventeenth century, the region of Provence emerged as a new, important center of faience production, with workshops opening in Moustiers and Marseille about the same time. About 1679, Pierre Clérissy opened the first faience manufactory in Moustiers (operated by the same family for three generations, until 1783); Pierre’s brother, Joseph Clérissy, opened the first faience manufactory in Saint-Jean-du-Désert, near Marseille.
The Clérissy Manufactory in Moustiers
The pieces here represent the production of the Clérissy manufactory in Moustiers during the first half of the eighteenth century. The earliest pieces were in monochrome blue, like the large platter painted with a boar hunt (cat. 49) and the ewer in the form of a helmet (cat. 50). However, the masterpiece of Moustiers faience in the Knafel Collection is undoubtedly the large platter, painted in monochrome blue with yellow highlights and touches of green, depicting a complex scene with Asian merchants and boats (cat. 51).
The Olérys and Laugier Manufactory in Moustiers
In Moustiers, several manufactories that opened during the first half of the eighteenth century presented strong competition for the Clérissy family, especially with the arrival of Joseph Olérys, a talented potter from Marseille. Olérys worked in his hometown for three years beginning in 1723, before being recruited by the Count of Aranda to direct his new faience manufactory in the Spanish town of Alcora, near Valencia. In 1738, Olérys opened his own manufactory in Moustiers with his brother-in-law, Jean-Baptiste Laugier, whence the various marks combining O and L found on pieces from the manufactory (cats. 55, 56, 57, 59).
Joseph Olérys is probably the inventor of the most celebrated type of decoration found on Moustiers faience, characterized by asymmetrical compositions of small and fanciful figures, or grotesques, painted with a lightness of touch and yet great precision, in monochrome manganese or polychromy (cats. 54, 56, 57, 58, 59).
The development of faience production in Marseille is closely related to that in Moustiers. The two centers were only about eighty miles apart, and many faienciers working at Marseille were from Moustiers. As a result, attribution of unmarked pieces can be quite challenging (for example, cat. 66). But Marseille manufactories also developed their own styles. The Leroy manufactory created a kind of flower that looks like a starfish, always painted in red, as seen around the borders of the large platter (cat. 63). And the Fauchier manufactory is celebrated for its “Don Quixote” services — with scenes from the famous Spanish novel by Cervantes painted in monochrome yellow (ochre), surrounded by rococo borders composed of asymmetric lines, shells, and latticework — represented here by a platter painted with an aristocratic couple and other characters near the ruins of an old castle or temple (cat. 67).