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(fāĕns`, –äns`, fī–) [for FaenzaFaenza
, city (1991 pop. 54,139), in Emilia-Romagna, N central Italy, on the Lamone River. A special kind of richly colored ceramic, called faience or majolica, has been made there since the 12th cent.; ceramic art flourished from 1450 to 1550 and was revived in the 18th cent.
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, Italy], any of several kinds of pottery, especially earthenware made of coarse clay and covered with an opaque tin-oxide glaze. The term is particularly applied to the ceramic ornaments and figurines of the ancient Egyptians. See also majolicamajolica
or maiolica
[from Majorca], type of faience usually associated with wares produced in Spain, Italy, and Mexico. The process of making majolica consists of first firing a piece of earthenware, then applying a tin enamel that upon drying forms a white opaque
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



fine earthenware made from dense, fine-pored, usually white ceramic material.

Manufacture. The same raw materials are used for the manufacture of faïence as for porcelain; only the ratio of the various materials and the technique of firing the article differ. Faïence is distinguished from porcelain by its greater porosity and water absorbancy (up to 9–12 percent); for this reason all faïence is covered with a thin, solid, impermeable glaze. Alumina, lime, grog, and feldspar varieties of faïence differ in their composition and properties.

Feldspar faïence is produced from a uniform blend of 60–65 percent sculpting materials (kaolin and clay), 30–36 percent quartz, and 3–5 percent feldspar; it is the type most widely used in technology and everyday life. The preliminary firing, known as biscuiting (1250°–1280°C), produces a strong earthenware, and the second firing (1050°–1150°C) melts the glaze applied to the surface of the article after the first firing. The articles are fired by direct heat in tunnel kilns. In the manufacture of large sanitary-industrial products from faïence, a single firing is usually used, during which three processes take place simultaneously: the component materials are sintered, the glaze melts, and a thin layer forms between the porous material and the vitreous glaze. After the first and second firings, articles intended for domestic use—primarily tableware—may be colored by various methods. Designs applied over the glaze are fixed during a third firing at 700°–900°C.

Faïence is most widely used in the production of commercial tableware and glazed construction ceramics, such as white or colored tiles. Faïence is being replaced by porcelain and semiporce-lain in the manufacture of sanitary-industrial products. (See alsoCERAMICS.)


Decorative faïence. Articles similar to faïence were produced in ancient Egypt. Various forms of faïence were manufactured in China beginning in the fourth or fifth century; gray-blue and gray-green glazes were used between the seventh and 13th centuries. Faïence was also manufactured in Korea from the 11th to the 13th century and in Japan, where the factory in Satsuma became famous in the 16th century. Fine, white, porcelain-like earthenware (kashin), apparently invented in Persia between the tenth and 12th centuries, was widely used in the Islamic countries. Fragments of thin-walled kashin vessels, with engraved or cut designs or with a blue-black painting on a white background under a translucent glaze, have been found in Nisa, Meshedi-Misrian, ancient Urgench, and at Oren-Kala, in what is now the Azerbaijan SSR. Particularly famous were Persian wares with paintings in colored enamels (minai, 12th—13th centuries) or luster over creamed-colored glaze (late llth-early 14th centuries), for which important production centers were Rey, Kashan, and Save; Safavid wares (16th and 17th centuries) with multicolored, cobalt blue, or luster painting were produced in Isfahan and Ker-man.

Faïence was first manufactured in Europe between 1525 and 1565 in St.-Porchaire in France. Articles fashioned by B. Palissy (16th century) and the products of the Delft workshops, with polychrome or cobalt blue painted glazes (particularly famous in the period 1680–1740), were similar to faïence. British ceramicists, such as J. Astbury (1720) and J. Wedgwood (late 18th century), perfected faïence and introduced it into everyday use. High-quality faïence was produced in England, France, Germany, and Russia from the 18th to the 20th century, during which time the product’s characteristics became firmly established: a greater softness and standardization of form in comparison with porcelain and a diversity of decoration methods, coloring, and glaze types.

Important Russian production centers included the faïence factory in Mezhgor’e, near Kiev (established 1799), and the A. Ia. Auerbakh factory in the village of Domkino (1809); the latter was relocated to the village of Kuznetsovo, Tver’ Province, in 1839, and ownership was transferred to M. S. Kuznetsov in 1870; the factory is now the M. I. Kalinin Konakovo Factory. Faïence was produced in various colors: white, opaque (with paintings and printed drawings), cream-colored, gray, and lilac. Some articles presented a marbled appearance, others were decorated with reliefs or colored glazes. Semifaϊence was produced in Gzhel’ (seeGZHEL’ CERAMICS). Today, the principal production center for decorative faïence in the USSR is the M. I. Kalinin Factory, which manufactures tableware and small sculptures from designs by V. G. Filianskaia, M. P. Kholodnaia, I. G. Frikh-Khar, and E. M. Gurevich. (SeealsoCERAMICS.)


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Cox, W. E. The Book of Pottery and Porcelain, vols. 1–2. New York, 1966.
Based on A. A. SALTYKOV’S article in the 2nd edition of the Bol’shaia Sovetskaia Entsiklopediia. Section on Eastern faïence written by


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

faïence, faïence ware

Any earthenware having a transparent glaze; formerly, any decorated earthenware with an opaque glaze.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Architecture and Construction. Copyright © 2003 by McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.