Monthly Archives: March 2015

“CAUDLE CUPS” by Rosemary Pemberton


On Thursday 12 March 2015, Rosemary Pemberton gave members a talk on “Caudle Cups”.  Rosemary’s interest in the decorative arts was enhanced by spending 20 years as a guide at Woburn Abbey.  She now writes and presents papers on Ceramics for the English Ceramics Circle.  Rosemary was making a return visit after talking on Chocolate Cups in May last year

Her lecture this time concentrated on cups for caudle, a drink dating from medieval times and used in various rituals and celebrations.  Rosemary began by explaining the differences between “Caudle Cups” and “Chocolate Cups”, which is mainly in the handles.  The chief distinction being that “Caudle Cups” incorporate a “thumb rest” whilst this is not the case with “Chocolate Cups “.

“Caudle Cups” may be of silver or porcelain usually with two handles to help the infirm, quite often women after childbirth.  To take a nourishing sip of caudle became especially popular in the 17th Century in England. The ingredients for a caudle are warm ale or wine mixed with bread or gruel, eggs, sugar, and spices.  Caudle was also known as a “pick-me-up” or sometimes a breakfast meal and because of the spices used was also very expensive.

The custom of inviting friends and family to “take a caudle” after a woman had given birth was a show of wealth.  As cups cost been 2 and 20 guineas

Examples of “caudle cups” can be found in the V & A and Rosemary took us though the various factories that produced such cups – explaining the differences in the handle designs and where the “thumb” rest was incorporated.  Those made at Derby were particularly distinctive, while those made at Worcester had pierced handles.  Wedgewood, Spode, Minton and Copeland also made cups.

The earliest example has been identified as Turkish dating to 100 BC and even today there are adverts in the papers for such cups.

Another interesting and enlightening lecture.

“Bernard Palissy 16th Century French Potter”

On Thursday 12 February 2015, Alice Bleuzen of Sotheby’s gave a talk on Bernard Palissy.

imageAlice is a Deputy Director, responsible for sales of Objects of Vertu in the Paris and London branches of Sotheby’s. She recently published and presented an article on Huguenot silversmiths in the 17th and 18th centuries for the London Silver Society.

Alice’s talk encompassed Bernard Palissy life as French Huguenot potter, hydraulics engineer and craftsman, famous for having struggled to imitate and emulate Chinese porcelain.  In the 19th century, Palissy’s pottery became the inspiration for Minton’s Victorian majolica which was exhibited at the Great Exhibition of 1851 under the name of “Palissy ware”.

Alice covered Palissy’s early life, his struggle to survive and feed his family – the exact location of his birth in 1510 is unknown, and although not a scholar of Greek or Latin, his education did include practical sciences of geometry and surveying and he was commissioned by the Crown to survey three salt marshes of Saintonge.

Palissy travelled extensively throughout France and the Low Countries acquiring knowledge.  In 1539 or 1540 Palissy was shown a white enamelled cup that astonished him, and he began a project to determine the nature of its production.  He struggled to recreate this pottery but never succeeded. Instead invented a style of rustic pottery called “Palissy” for which he is now famous.  This pottery was decorated with reliefs mimicking wildlife from his native marshes, including fish, crustaceans, reptiles, ferns and flowers.

Palissy worked for the Duc de Montmorency and in 1548 was brought to Paris under the protection of the Duc and Catherine des Medicis.  During this period he constructed Grotto’s in the Tuileries Gardens and other locations – none of which remain except in small pieces reclaimed when excavating the various sites.

Sadly Palissy’s life ended in the Bastille, where he had been imprisoned for his religious beliefs. Equally as sad is that there are only ten pieces of his work surviving in Public Collections – in the Louvre, Victoria and Albert and the Wallace Collection.

This was a fascinating talk leaving a desire to know more about Palissy and his life.