Rouen: The Capital of French Faience

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.

  • Earthenware dish depicting two figures turning a bundle of grapes into wine

    Dish
    Rouen, ca. 1725−30
    Painted by Pierre II Chapelle
    Faience (tin-glazed earthenware)
    Diam. 12 in. (30.4 cm)
    Cat. 37
    © The Frick Collection

     

    Because so few faience painters signed their pieces, attributions to a specific artist are almost impossible. One exception is Pierre II Chapelle (1695−1730), whose father was also an important faience painter in Rouen. Pierre II Chapelle signed a few pieces painted in a distinctive, virtuosic style after contemporary French engravings.

  • Earthenware dish with a scene of a cow surrounded by four figures in the center and birds and plants on the outside

    Dish
    Rouen, ca. 1730−40
    Faience (tin-glazed earthenware)
    Diam. 13 in. (33 cm)
    Cat. 41
    © The Frick Collection

     

    As elsewhere in Europe, the import of Japanese lacquers, textiles, and porcelain left an important mark on potters in Rouen. This dish is influenced by Japanese Imari porcelain, characterized by extensive floral motifs painted in radiant blue and iron-red, and gold, although the central scene likely derives from a Chinese model.

  • Earthenware tray depicting a scene of people dancing

    Tray
    Rouen, ca. 1740−50
    Faience (tin-glazed earthenware)
    H. 17 7/8 in. (45.5 cm), W. 20 1/4 (51.4 cm)
    Cat. 45
    © The Frick Collection

     

    The quality of the painting and the varied types of decoration that developed in Rouen during the first half of the eighteenth century are further exemplified by this tray featuring a peasant scene in the manner of the seventeenth-century Flemish painter David Teniers the Younger.

  • Earthenware tray with a floral motif in blue and orange on a white background.

    Tray
    Rouen, ca. 1700−20
    Faience (tin-glazed earthenware)
    H. 12 1/2 in. (31.8 cm), W. 17 7/8 in. (45.3 cm)
    Cat. 28
    © Christophe Perlès

  • Earthenware vase with a floral motif in blue and orange

    Pair of Vases
    Rouen, ca. 1710−20
    Faience (tin-glazed earthenware)
    H. 11 1/4 in. (28.5 cm), W. 9 3/4 in. (25 cm)
    Cat. 29
    © The Frick Collection

  • Earthenware vase with a floral motif in blue and orange.

    Vase
    Rouen, ca. 1710−20
    Faience (tin-glazed earthenware)
    H. 7 7/8 in. (20 cm), W. 5 in. (12.7 cm)
    Cat. 30
    © Christophe Perlès

  • Earthenware platter with a scene of various figures, children and adults, interacting outside at the center surrounded by birds and a floral motif.

    Platter
    Faience (tin-glazed earthenware)
    Rouen, ca. 1710−20
    Diam. 21 1/4 in. (54 cm)
    Cat. 31
    © Christophe Perlès

  • Earthenware platter with four nude figures in the middle surrounded by floral designs in blue and orange

    Platter
    Rouen, ca. 1725
    Faience (tin-glazed earthenware)
    Diam. 21 1/4 in. (54 cm)
    Cat. 32
    © Christophe Perlès

  • Earthenware platter with four nude figures in the middle surrounded by floral designs in blue and orange

    Platter
    Rouen, ca. 1725
    Faience (tin-glazed earthenware)
    Diam. 21 5/8 in. (55 cm)
    Cat. 33
    © The Frick Collection

  • Earthenware plate with two cherubs in the center surrounded by floral designs in blue and orange

    Plate
    Rouen, ca. 1725
    Faience (tin-glazed earthenware)
    Diam. 9 5/8 in. (24.5 cm)
    Cat. 34
    © The Frick Collection

  • Earthenware vase with floral motif in blue on white with large sections of black on yellow.

    Covered Vase
    Rouen, ca. 1725
    Faience (tin-glazed earthenware)
    H. 12 in. (31.5 cm), W. 9 1/2 in. (24 cm)
    Cat. 35
    © Christophe Perlès

  • Earthenware plate with coat-of-arms at the center depicting two shields held by two lions

    Plate with Coat-of-Arms of the Marquis de Saint-Evremont
    Rouen, ca. 1725
    Faience (tin-glazed earthenware)
    Diam. 9 1/2 in. (24 cm)
    Cat. 36
    © The Frick Collection

  • Earthenware pitcher in the shape of a bearded man in orange, blue, and yellow robes and a yellow hat.

    Anthropomorphic Pitcher
    Rouen, ca. 1730
    Faience (tin-glazed earthenware)
    H. 15 7/8 in. (40.3 cm), W. 6 in. (15.2 cm)
    Cat. 38
    © Christophe Perlès

  • Earthenware bracket with a scene of a man leaning over a woman on the ground while another figure watches from a window.

    Wall Bracket
    Rouen, ca. 1740−50
    Faience (tin-glazed earthenware)
    H. 12 1/2 in. (32 cm), W. 12 in. (30.5 cm)
    Cat. 46
    © Christophe Perlès

     

    This bracket is one of the most accomplished pieces made in Rouen in the exuberant rocaille style fashionable in France about 1730–50. The style was inspired by nature, especially shells, and the composition was typically asymmetrical. The central scene here depicts the beginning of a famous licentious tale by Jean de la Fontaine (1621−95) in which a flighty husband seduces a pretty serving girl as she is gathering flowers in his garden, while a neighbor observes the scene from her window. The Rouen potter closely followed a print made in the early 1740s by Nicolas de Larmessin after a painting by Nicolas Lancret, The Servant Justified, now at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

  • Earthenware vase with a floral motif and few hunting scenes in blue.

    Covered Puzzle Vase
    Rouen, ca. 1740
    Faience (tin-glazed earthenware)
    H. 12 in. (30.5 cm), W. 7 1/4 in. (18.4 cm)
    Cat. 44
    © Christophe Perlès

     

    A puzzle jug — with its typical perforated neck here in the shape of flowers — was technically challenging to make as it was designed so as not to spill its contents through the holes. This covered example is particularly charming, with a surprise rooster placed inside.

  • Earthenware tazza depicting a woman and two children in a wagon surrounded by other figures, animals, plants and insects

    Tazza
    Rouen, ca. 1730
    Faience (tin-glazed earthenware)
    H. 6 1/4 in. (15.8 cm), diam. 11 5/8 in. (29.5 cm)
    Cat. 39
    © The Frick Collection

  • Earthenware tray depicting a landscape with a house on a river and several figures inside and outside the house as well as insects and birds in the sky

    Tray
    Rouen, ca. 1730−40
    Faience (tin-glazed earthenware)
    H. 18 in. (46 cm), W. 22 3/4 in. (58 cm)
    Cat. 40
    © The Frick Collection

  • Earthenware plate with a landscape scene of a figure sitting on a bridge using a pulley system to pull a bucket of water from the stream below and another figure watching.

    Plate
    Rouen, ca. 1730−40
    Faience (tin-glazed earthenware)
    Diam. 9 3/4 in. (24.6 cm)
    Cat. 42
    © Christophe Perlès

  • Earthenware platter with a landscape scene with a dragon surrounded by several figures

    Platter
    Rouen, 1738
    Faience (tin-glazed earthenware)
    Diam. 22 1/2 in. (57 cm)
    Marks: on the reverse, 1738
    Cat. 43
    © The Frick Collection