Bernard Palissy

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Palissy, Bernard

(bĕrnär` pälēsē`), c.1510–c.1589, French potter. For 16 years he worked in vain to imitate white-glazed pottery (probably Chinese), even burning his furniture to fire his kilns. He succeeded in producing a widely imitated pottery, Palissy ware, admired for smooth glazes in richly colored enamels. He was appointed (c.1562) royal potter to Catherine de' Medici and created platters, ewers, and other ornamented pottery for the French court. He is noted for pieces reproducing scriptural and mythological subjects in low relief and for his rustic pieces decorated with sharply modeled forms copied from nature—notably reptiles, insects, and plants. Imitations of this type of Palissy's ware became popular in the later 19th cent. He gave (c.1575–1584) public lectures on natural history. A writer of outstanding ability on a diversity of topics, including religion, chemistry, mineralogy, philosophy, and agriculture, he published two collections of discourses—Recepte véritable (1563) and Discours admirables (1580). Many of his views on nature have been confirmed by scientists. In 1588 he was sent, as a Huguenot, to the Bastille, where he died.
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Palissy, Bernard


Born circa 1510 in Saintes or Agen, southwestern France; died 1589 or 1590 in Paris. French Renaissance ceramicist and scholar.

Palissy worked in Saintes (from 1539) and in Paris (from 1564). In the mid-1550’s, he developed a method of making ceramic wares covered with colored glazes. Particularly outstanding was his rustic ware, mistakenly called faience. This pottery generally consisted of oval dishes decorated with reliefs made from molds of fishes, shells, vegetation, snakes, lizards, and frogs. Palissy was also engaged in the natural sciences, including agronomy (he pointed out the importance of salts in the soil) and geology. In lectures that he delivered in Paris (1575–84) and in his published works, he championed the experimental method in natural science.


Oeuvres complètes. Paris, 1961.


Stepanov, B. I. “Bernar Palissi.” Nauka i zhizn’, 1939, no. 10.
Audiat, L. Bernard Palissy. Geneva, 1970.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
Bernard Palissy was fascinated by both science and art.
Bernard Palissy was a French Huguenot potter and self-taught naturalist who developed his interest in minerals independently in a different way.
Two of these were borrowed from museum collections: one, a bowl with salamanders, snakes, leaves, and flowers cast by sixteenth-century French ceramicist Bernard Palissy; the other piece represented a group of fishermen pulling their bounty to shore in a vagina-shaped net.
Philippe Glardon, Frank Lestringant, and Anne-Marie Beaulieu, editors, respectively, of Pierre Belon du Mans's Histoire de la nature des oyseaux (1555), Bernard Palissy's Recette veritable (1563) and Lancelot Voisin de la Popeliniere's Les trois mondes (1582) offer texts that prove Ceard's hypotheses.
Evidence for such interest is abundant in technical treatises, including agricultural books, the writings of the artisan Bernard Palissy, and the machine books of Jacques Besson and Agostino Ramelli.