Wednesday, 3 June 2009

My Favorite Faïence Felines by J-P Meadows

First, a word from Adela:

I’d like to introduce you to Jean-Pierre…aka J-P…our one-year-old chat de la forêt norwegienne who was born in the fifteenth arrondissement of Paris.

His full name is Châtelain Jean-Pierre and he is the Chief Financial Officer of The Meadows Collection. Given his responsibilities, you might think that he would be more involved with matters of an accounting nature rather than what goes on during my stint as guest blogger.

Au contraire.

If it’s one thing we do Chez Meadows, it’s collaborate. We shop together, cook together, work together, play together. I’m right there sticking in my two cents’ worth at every photo shoot and Mark…poor thing…suffers through every word I write. J-P? Well, J-P, despite his duties as CFO, is definitely not above trying his hand…make that paw…at just about anything that we do. The dining table may be a no-no, yet it’s not unheard of for guests to find their meals served amidst wafting cat hair…the cat hair that’s not in the camera lens or computer keyboard, that is.

So this blog entry is written by J-P:

I’m an apartment cat…my predecessors enjoyed the great outdoors...

...but they didn’t have a Parisian veterinarian who absolutely and positively nixed the very idea of my enjoying a little promenade along the rue. Dommage! (Although I did just the other day figure out how to get out on the balcony…forty feet above the street…what a thrill to mess around with those geraniums. But the look of horror on their faces tells me that that isn’t about to happen ever again!

So I do what I can to make the best of it. For one thing, I surround myself with things that I love. Since this blog is for aficionados of French pottery, here are some favorites along those lines from my personal collection:

From Boulogne-sur-Mer, an Henri Delcourt cat-form knife rest. In the 1920s, Henri Delcourt became the operator of the pottery that had previously been run by Jules Verlingue…who in 1917 had purchased the HB factory and relocated to Quimper. In the Boulogne-sur-Mer faïencerie, Delcourt continued to produce wares similar to Verlingue…small faïence objects intended for tourist destinations…until a failing economy forced the closure of the business in 1935.
An HB Quimper nécessaire pour le fumoir or smokers’ accessory. Originally, when this was made in the 1920s, the holes along the back were intended to hold cigarettes, the mouth was an ashtray, matches were stored in the top of the head, later to be struck using the matchstrike underneath the tail. Not being a smoker, it remains utilitarian however, as it graces my work area and holds pencils, paperclips, and the like.

I’m not positive of the origin of this piece, but I do enjoy it. It’s a whistle…and it functions. They use it every once in a while…like when I’m scratching on paintings or furniture.

They hide…or rather, think they hide…my toys in the top drawer of an eighteenth century commode, but they can’t fool me. All it takes is a quick swipe or two in the general direction of said commode and its precious two-hundred-and-sixty-year-old-walnut-with-original-patina…and bingo…they immediately jump up and play with me! But sometimes, when they have the nerve to be occupied with something that they think is more important than playtime avec moi...that’s when they use the whistle.

It’s made of terre cuite vernissée…glazed earthenware…and besides being loud, it has a very simple, folk art quality.

I also like this piece by Jeanne Champillon (1897-1972).

It’s from Orleans…about an hour southwest of Paris. Jeanne Champillon worked as an artist, painter, engraver, and ceramist. She became interested in pottery after purchasing an old treatise on the subject, so interested that in 1947, she opened an art pottery studio in Orléans, naming it Le Clos de Joye. Her work can be characterized by the amazing clarity of the glaze. The cat perched in a tree stalking a bird that is the central motif on this piece is a perfect example...the glaze has wonderful depth. It's no surprise that she would later go on to teach ceramics for fifteen years at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts (Fine Arts School) in Orléans.Her distinctive mark is on the represents Notre Dame des Aydes, an old church near her pottery studio.

This blue and white cat posing elegantly on a tasseled pillow is a good teaching tool for explaining to faïence collectors that they had best not put too much stock in how a piece is marked. The piece was made in Desvres in the last quarter of the nineteenth century. During this time period, old styles of faïence were back in fashion and like potteries everywhere, several of the factories operating in Desvres produced copies of older styles…styles that had originally come from Rouen, Strasbourg, Moustiers, or, as in this case, Delft.

Taking it one step further than just copying the form and design of the earlier pieces, the manufacturers in Desvres also copied the old marks. So you have a piece produced in northern France in the last quarter of the nineteenth century signed with the mark of Anthony Pennis, a Dutch potter from the second quarter of the eighteenth century! And to make matters worse, the mark is the same as the one used by Arthur Porquier in Quimper!

So how does one determine the origin and age of a piece of pottery? Cunning collectors know that the clay, the glaze, the form, and the motif will impart far more accurate information than a manufacturer’s mark.

Speaking of cunning…I suddenly realize that I don’t have a tasseled pillow…so, just as suddenly, I think I’ll close for now and go on strike until I get one…for after all, I am a French cat.


  1. J-P you are a very talented cat indeed, of course you deserve a tasseled pillow

  2. Indeed, Jean Pierre, you are a handsome French cat who should have a tasseled pillow on which to recline as you go about the important duties as CFO of the Meadows Collection. Thank you for taking the time to help Adela as guest blogger. Your collection of faience cats is charming. Animal forms are prevalent among my faience collection, and there are definitely a few cats. I wanted to post a photo of one you didn't feature but don't know how to include a photo when I post a comment. She is marked with the mysterious AG. I'd be interested to know if you have any knowledge about this mark.

  3. Bonjour, M. Jean Pierre Chat! What a marvelous profile of yourself you have written, and I can see that you have become very knowledgeable about faïence from your human companions. I LOVED the photo of you taking Adela for a walk! Good job!