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For the architectural material, see Glazed architectural terra-cotta. For the ceramics of Ancient Egypt and the Indus Valley, see Egyptian faience


Faience or faïence is the conventional name in English for fine tin-glazed pottery on a delicate pale buff body, associated with Faenzamarker in northern Italy. The invention of a white pottery glaze suitable for painted decoration, by the addition of an oxide of tin to the slip of a lead glaze, was a major advance in the history of pottery. The invention seems to have been made in Iran or the Middle East before the ninth century. A kiln capable of producing temperatures exceeding was required to achieve this result (see pottery), the result of millennia of refined pottery-making traditions.

Technically, lead-glazed earthenware, such as the French sixteenth-century Saint-Porchaire ware, does not properly qualify as faience, but the distinction is not usually maintained.

History

Ancient "faience"

Main article Egyptian faience.
The term "faience" has been extended to include finely glazed ceramic beads found in Egypt as early as 4000 BC and in the Indus Valley Civilization. Examples of ancient faience are also found in Minoan Cretemarker, which was likely influenced by Egyptian culture. Faience material, for instance, has been recovered from the Knossosmarker archaeological site.

Faience in the Western Mediterranean

The Moors brought the technique of tin-glazed earthenware to Al-Andalusmarker, where the art of metallic glazes was perfected. From Andalusia these "Hispano-Moresque wares" were exported, either directly or via the Balearic Islandsmarker to Italy.

"Majolica" (pronounced and also spelled "maiolica") is a garbled version of "Maiorica", for the island of Majorcamarker, which was a transshipping point for refined tin-glazed earthenwares shipped to Italymarker from the kingdom of Aragonmarker in Spain at the close of the Middle Ages. This type of Spanish pottery owed much to its Moorish inheritance.

In Italy, locally produced tin-glazed earthenwares, initiated in the fourteenth century, reached a peak in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries, represented by the Italian faience called Majolica. The name faience is simply the French name for Faenzamarker, in the Romagnamarker near Ravennamarker, Italy, where a painted majolica ware on a clean, opaque pure-white ground, was produced for export as early as the fifteenth century.

French and northern European faïence

The first northerners to imitate the tin-glazed earthenwares being imported from Italy were the Dutchmarker. Delftware is a kind of faience, made at potteries round Delft in Hollandmarker, characteristically decorated in blue on white, in imitation of the blue and white porcelain that was imported from Chinamarker in the early sixteenth century, but it quickly developed its own recognisably Dutch décor.

"English Delftware" produced in Lambethmarker, London, on the south bank of the Thames, and at other centers, from the late sixteenth century, provided apothecaries with jars for wet and dry drugs. Many of the early potters in London were Flemish. By about 1600, blue-and-white wares were being produced, labelling the contents within decorative borders. The production was slowly superseded in the second half of the eighteenth century with the introduction of cheap creamware.

Dutch potters in northern (and Protestant) Germany established German centres of faience: the first manufactories in Germany were opened at Hanaumarker (1661) and Heusenstamm (1662), soon moved to nearby Frankfurt-am-Mainmarker.

In France, centres of faience manufacturing developed from the early eighteenth century led in 1690 by Quimper in Brittany[53921], which today possesses an interesting museum devoted to faience, and followed by Rouenmarker, Strasbourgmarker and Lunévillemarker. In Switzerland, Zunfthaus zur Meisenmarker near Fraumünstermarker church houses the porcelain and faience collection of the Swiss National Museummarker in Zurich.

The products of French faience manufactories, rarely marked, are identified by the usual methods of ceramic connoisseurship: the character of the body, the character and palette of the glaze, and the style of decoration, faïence blanche being left in its undecorated fired white slip. Faïence parlante bears mottoes often on decorative labels or banners. Wares for apothecaries, including albarello, can bear the names of their intended contents, generally in Latin and often so abbreviated to be unrecognizable to the untutored eye. Mottoes of fellowships and associations became popular in the 18th century, leading to the Faïence patriotique that was a specialty of the years of the French Revolution.
In the course of the later 18th century, cheap porcelain took over the market for refined faience; in the early 19th century, fine stoneware—fired so hot that the unglazed body vitrifies—closed the last of the traditional makers' ateliers even for beer steins. At the low end of the market, local manufactories continued to supply regional markets with coarse and simple wares.

Faïence revival

In the 1870s, the Aesthetic movement, notably in Britain, rediscovered the robust charm of faience, and the large porcelain manufactories marketed revived faience, such as the "Majolica ware" of Minton and of Wedgwood.

Types of faience

Many centres of traditional manufacture are recognized, even some individual ateliers. A partial list follows.

England



France



Germany



Italy



Scandinavia



Ukraine



Poland



United States



Notes

  1. For broader context see Tin-glazed earthenware; see Alan Caiger-Smith, 1973. Tin-Glazed Pottery (London: Faber and Faber).
  2. C. Michael Hogan, Knossos fieldnotes, Modern Antiquarian (2007)
  3. "Majolica" derives from Majorca, an early depot for the re-export of tin-glazed earthenware to Italy.
  4. (Royal Pharmaceutical Society) "English Delftware Storage Jars"


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