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century wooden cistern were used to collect and store water from the roofs of buildings. These 19th century mosquito breeding havens heralded the beginning of the end for Provence jars. Occasionally they were needed during droughts and for those conservative souls who had developed a taste for river water and its use in baking. Provence jars now ignominiously function as prized (and expensive) decorative pots on the galleries of modern homes to signal the affluence and bon gout of the owner.
When we first started our collection we were delighted to find common pearlware shards but were puzzled by the rare fragments of a thick pottery that had a brown bottom and white surface. Occasionally, a blue surface decoration was also present. Noël Hume in Artifacts of Colonial America (1970, p 141) continued to enlighten us and was our source for identification of these fragments as Rouen ware. “ROUEN” is impressed on the bottom of FPF 3 thus identifying the site of the kiln and its ware. Hume publishing in The Magazine Antiques, Dec. 1960 expanded on “Rouen Faïence in Eighteenth-Century America”.
Rouen faïence is easily recognized when a manganese glaze is used on the bottom of the ware as well as a blue characteristic decoration on the top surface. The bottom manganese glaze has a dark brown coloration and is called cul noir in a not so polite
Pottery shard tilted on a mirror to show the tin glazed inner surface and tan matrix of the vessel. Dug in New Orleans by Sidney Genius. FPF 33
Rouen ware mark on the bottom of a plate with a dark brown manganese glaze. FPF 3
vulgar French (Hint – Cul rouge happens when someone makes you very angry). The pottery was made in Rouen kilns or in nearby Forges les Eaux in the late 18th century thru the first quarter of the 19th century. The tin glaze of the ware is usually crazed and chips easily. The rim has a characteristic design and as an aside, whole classification of faïence have been proposed based on regional rim decorations. A décor Rouen à la corbeille which features a blue basket of flowers centered on the plate is a common decorative device (FPF 1). This utilitarian ware is the easiest regional vernacular French pottery to identify and as luck would have it, that was where we started.
We were elated when we found a small ovoid Rouen platter in an antique shop on Chartres St. in New Orleans. Subsequently foraging in the William Groves collection we identified a Rouen platter dug in New Orleans. After a difficult negotiation with Mr. Groves we acquired the New Orleans platter (FPF1) and a small faïence plate with no decoration also in the collection. On a trip to France sponsored by the LSM in the 80s a large intact round Rouen platter was found in Paris at the now defunct Louvre Antiquities (FPF 2). We start the faïence part of the inventory with the Groves platter since it was our first intact example dug in New Orleans.
A favorite shard (FPF 33) of Rouen ware dug in New Orleans was given to us by Sidney Genius and his mother Eulalie. The shard is the remnant of what must have been a handsome tureen with a pear finial. That shard was a good indication much more than plates and platters were made in Rouen kilns and used in Louisiana. An array of wares from tureens to double handled soup pots, large pots, roasting oven and terrines expanded our collection and knowledge of this utilitarian ware.
An atypical find was a faïence plate dug on Bourbon Street in New Orleans. The central motif is the liberty tree. What is a French Republican symbol doing in Louisiana? Politics at the end of the 18th century in Louisiana was conservative and power was held by the plantation society. Terrified Haitian plantation owners and their families, fleeing their homeland and its bloody revolution, doubled the population of New Orleans. These refugees spread disquieting stories of French republicans causing trouble in New Orleans as well as in the countryside. The conservative elements must have seen Jacobins hiding behind every “tree” and fear of a slave rebellion was a recurrent nightmare! Life at the end of the 18th century in Louisiana was troubled and a symbol of the French revolution would not have been a welcome sight.

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