During the first half of the eighteenth century, Rouen was a major center of faience production in Europe with up to fourteen manufactories operating simultaneously. The city’s production of faience was initially influenced by the fashionable monochrome blue decoration developed in Nevers and Delft, depicting pastoral or chinoiserie scenes, as seen in the central scene of the large platter (cat. 31). It is surrounded by two decorative borders imitating embroidery, called lambrequins. This new type of decoration derived from the habit of late sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Chinese potters of placing a piece of embroidery around the neck of porcelain vases. Chinese potters later decorated export porcelain with motifs inspired by such pieces of embroidery, and subsequently Delft, Nevers, and Rouen potters started to do the same. It was in Rouen that this decorative ornament gained distinction and became the signature of faience produced in that city until the mid-eighteenth century.
These pieces demonstrate the varied ways in which the lambrequin motif was used in Rouen — sometimes covering an entire piece (cats. 29, 30, 35) and other times used in simple or multiple borders, thick or thin, surrounding a painted scene, small figures of children, bouquets of flowers, or coats of arms (cats. 28, 31, 32, 33). The motif appears in monochrome blue (cat. 31), blue and red (cats. 28, 29, 30), or polychromy (cats. 32, 33). Lambrequins are often combined with ocre niellé (inlaid ochre), the rarest and most prestigious type of decoration developed in Rouen (cats. 32, 33, 34, 35). Blue foliage is painted on an ochre ground to create a decorative effect that simulates the silversmith’s technique of niellage (niello), a process in which black enamel is inlaid on precious metal.