National Gallery of Art - EXHIBITIONS

Image: Artistic Exchange: Europe and the Islamic World

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French 16th Century, probably Saint-Porchaire (Deux-Sevres), or Paris region
Cup on high foot with the royal arms of France crowned
c. 1540/1560, lead-glazed fine earthenware, height x length of bowl excluding masks: 13.6 x 15.4 cm
National Gallery of Art, Washington
Widener Collection
Image: French 16th Century, probably Saint-Porchaire (Deux-Sevres), or Paris region
Cup on high foot with the royal arms of France crowned, c. 1540/1560
Widener Collection

This cup and the subsequent two objects are examples of the rarest type of ceramics of the Renaissance period. They were assembled from separately formed and decorated parts. The technique employed for the surface ornament is unique in pottery. Using ceramic or plaster stamps, the motifs were impressed into a thin layer or "skin" of clay, filled with colored pastes, then laminated onto the molded pieces. Contemporary bookbinders used a similar technique, which originated in the Islamic world, to impress gold leaf into leather with heated metal stamps.

The shape of the objects and their sculptural ornament derive from French and Italian metalwork and design created in a mannerist style, which emphasized the bizarre and the fantastic. The surface decoration draws upon the many European pattern books and prints inspired by Francesco Pellegrino's Embroidery Patterns in the Arab and Italian Style, published in Paris in 1530.

Compare the ornament on the bowl of the Saint-Porchaire cup to the interlaced geometric strapwork and vegetal arabesques of Pellegrino's woodcut.

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