Origins of Faience
Discovered in Egypt, 2700 years BC, the first objects in faïence were made
of a stanniferous glaze applied directly onto ceramic. But it was the
Islamic potters that developed faïence, thanks to their research in this
The production of this " glazed pottery " spread across the Byzantine
Empire. The name of " stanniferous " ceramics became " majolica ", to
finish as " faïence ", mainly due to the very great influence of the
Italian town of Faenza, which at that time, was the proud owner of a
During the fifteenth century, the Italian ceramists painted directly onto
unfired glaze using shades of yellow and violet. These " Italian
subjects " became very fashionable as objects of decoration, from the
apothecary’s shelves to the aristocrat’s table. Gien still produces
During the Renaissance, shapes became increasingly complex and style
increasingly elaborate, such as the " a isoriato " style, used to
illustrate an important event. These were ordered by the princely
families, such as the Medici.
During the Baroque period (1570 to 1650), Faenza had managed to perfect a
plain white glaze. This meant that the over-elaborate style could be
replaced by better, clearer and better spaced-out designs, painted in a
range of blues and yellows.
Thus gold and silverware is replaced by faience : water jugs,
" rafraîchissoires ", candelabras, flasks....The style is increasing
delicate and limits itself to a blue, yellow and orange monochrome.
Century in France
was especially during the sixteenth century that the production of faïence
became widespread in France, in part due to the influence of their Italian
The faïence craftsmen traveled throughout Europe to teach their trade. In
this way the factories of Nimes, Lyon and Rouen were set up, under the
direction of Italian immigrants
Louis XIV - the Sun King
In order to finance his
campaigns from 1689 to 1709, Louis XIV ordered by decree that all gold and
silver dishes should be melted; he set the example by sending his
own dinner service to be made into coinage. The Court had no choice but to
follow, and in one week the whole Court was without quality tableware. The
melting of this gold and silver suddenly opened up new opportunities for
the ceramics manufacturers : the humble earth had been elevated to the
most noble of tables.
In Versailles, Louis XIV had the Porcelain " Trianon " built : the walls
were decorated with the blue and white tiles from the ceramics
manufacturers of Nevers, Saint Cloud and Rouen. Large water jugs with
their accompanying basins were ordered : a whole range of objects became
widespread and were as elaborate as their gold and silver counterparts.
History is such that Louis XIV, although the owner of an impressive
collection of Chinese porcelain, preferred faïence by far.
The Faïence industry flourished
right up to the end of the eighteenth century, with the development of a
number of factories manufacturing an extraordinary and varied range of
products. However, weakened by the troubles associated with the French
Revolution, the disappearance of a part of the French nobility, and the
impact of the industrial revolution, the French manufacturers slowly but
surely lost their place, only to be taken over by English bone-china which
had been introduced into France. This was the beginning of a slow decline.
The economic and social context of the nineteenth century helped bring the
Faïence industry back to life : a new social middle class, the
" bourgeoisie ", contributed significantly.
Gien Historical Styles
and Sources of Inspirations
patterns and styles are a true reflection of French and European
earthenware styles from the 17th, 18th and 19th Centuries, and also of
pottery styles from the Far East.
Gien Faience interpretations of Rouen styles, Dutch blue patterns from
Delft, Italian majolica, Marseille rosebuds and others are the pride and
honor of Gien. You can see these in the Gien Museum.
Italian style contributed to Gien's success. These patterns were
inspired by Italian majolica earthenware from the Renaissance, especially
from Faenza, Urbino and Savona. It is a heavily decorated style: lots of
medallions, pairs of lovers, grotesques, goddesses and floral motifs
arranged on a white, black, gray or brown background.
The Gien Museum
Faienceries de Gien created the Gien Museum in 1986, that is visited by
more than 40,000 people each year.
Built in an old clay body cave dating back to the 16th century, the museum
tells the history of Gien from 1821 to the present.
Two rooms, including a 19th century dining room, show popular faience and
artistic faience, along with many spectacular pieces created for different
World's Fairs in the 19th Century.
The Museum is located in Gien, France, 78, Place de la Victoire.
For Opening Hours, please see