Pricing Guides & Dictionary of Makers Marks for Antiques & Collectibles

FAIENCE POTTERY:
Brief Notes on its Origins & History
See also:  Quimper Pottery & French Faience

FRENCH FAIENCE ART POTTERY BAROQUE DRESSER BOX
FRENCH FAIENCE ART POTTERY BAROQUE DRESSER BOX

Faience Pottery [also known as Fayence in France] is often used as a synonym to Majolica because of their similar appearance and use of Tin glazes. Yet, many collectors distinguish Faience pottery by their characteristic Polychrome (= multi-colored) designs and mostly prevalently white background, whereas Majolica tends to have a thicker glaze and decoration all over along with pronounced raised decorative details (relief).

Although the earliest specimens date all the way back to 1200BC in Greece and Persia as Faience-decorated clayware, most antique Faience items found in the secondary market or many museums today are made ca 16thC onwards, and primarily in Italy, France, Holland, and the UK. The most desired of Faience Pottery originates from France, such as from the regions of Quimper, Ruen, Luneville, or from Italy near Turin, Cantagalli, Savona, and Florence. As with most other popular pottery or porcelain, some Faience pieces nowadays also come from China and other Asian countries, and in spite of their decorative appeal, these recent reproductions are obviously not as valuable as real and authentic 16th - 19thC examples.

Most antique Faience Pottery was of a quasi-utilitarian nature, like Jugs or Pitchers and Plates, but with a distinct aesthetic flair. Vases and other decorative ware were also made in the older days, but many tend to be of rather regular and ordinary shapes. Designs tend to be Floral or Geometric in nature, and some have simple depictions of pastoral scenes with one or two persons carrying farm duties, so-called Bretons and Bretonnes, against an all-white background.

MONTAGNON FRENCH FAIENCE PEDESTAL STAND
MONTAGNON FRENCH FAIENCE PEDESTAL STAND

The vast majority of antique Faience was made in small Studios or by individual Artists. These early pieces were signed with the Artist’s initials or monogram, along with a symbol or the full name of their location. Hence, QUIMPER or other names of regions where Faience Pottery was made do not reflect any actual manufacturer or maker, but rather a number of Art Studios or Artists that worked in the area. Much later, around very-late-18thC onwards, some studios were much larger or became Collectives, and some marks and signatures from that period are linked to a specific company, as in the case of the HENRIOT factory in Quimper, France.

Old Faience is very popular nowadays and can fetch high prices at Auction. Because early examples were made of Earthenware and, as noted above, were of utilitarian nature, many show clear signs of distress and wear such chips or cracks. However, this is to be expected and in most cases, it does not detract from their value. In fact, some collectors believe it adds character to a Faience piece. This is unlike what you would expect from a Meissen Porcelain Figurine or a pair of Sevres Urns that are usually more valuable if in perfect condition, even though they date from a similar period since the latter were meant to be used for display only.

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