The production of French faience is directly related to the arrival in Lyon, during the second half of the sixteenth century, of a number of Italian maiolica potters and painters. The story continued in Nevers during the late sixteenth century and throughout the seventeenth century. For several years, Nevers was the only town in France to produce faience, with just one northern European rival, Delft, where tin-glazed earthenware production had begun about 1620. When Rouen became an active center of faience production, beginning in 1644, Nevers lost its monopoly. In the late seventeenth century, the region of Provence emerged as a new, important center of production, with workshops opening at Moustiers and in the port city of Marseille about the same time. Throughout the eighteenth century, workshops were established elsewhere in France, including in Moulins, Montpellier, and Sinceny, expanding the production of French faience and offering new forms and types of decoration that were characteristic of each region and workshop. This rapid geographic and stylistic expansion was stimulated by the sumptuary laws passed by Louis XIV in 1679, 1689, and 1709, whereby the aristocracy was asked to melt down their objects in precious metals to help fund France’s ongoing and expensive wars.
Pieces from each of the centers of faience production, organized geographically and chronologically, were presented in the exhibition.