This lecture examines the contribution of the French ceramist, installation artist and naturalist Bernard Palissy (1510-1590) to the festive culture of his time. Palissy’s oeuvre is a blend of experience and vernacular knowledge driven by an intense Calvinist faith, yet he was greatly appreciated by the French Catholic monarchy. Although his work displays little engagement with the symbolic language of Renaissance festivals his plats rustiques featured on royal banqueting tables and his artificial grottoes were part of the marvels French monarchs showed to impress official visitors on festive occasions.
Over the past decades research prompted by recent discoveries, including the excavation of his workshop in the 1980s, has shed new light on Palissy and dramatically reduced the number of surviving works attributed to him to plates featuring casts of animals and plants and fragments intended for a grotto, including casts of human limbs.
After a brief introduction on Palissy's life and patrons, François examines Palissy's plats rustiques and grotto first in the context of the use and presence of the natural world in Renaissance festivals, and second in the context of the emphasis on fertility and abundance characteristic of Valois festivals.