Pair of Saltcellars

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French School
16th century
St. Porchaire, France, ca. 1540-1560.
Lead-glazed earthenware, inlaid with slip.
AZ037.1: 5 3/4 x 3 3/8 inches (145 x 85 mm); AZ037.2: 5 1/2 x 3 3/4 inches (140 x 95 mm); "Salamander": height: 5 1/2 inches (140 mm); "Three Crescents": height: 5 inches (127 mm)
Purchased by Pierpont Morgan, 1906.
AZ037.1: M. Lazare, Marseilles, 1850; Mr. George Field, London, 1893; M. Charles Stein, Paris, 1899; M.J.H. Fitzhenry, Paris, 1910; from whom purchased by J. Pierpont Morgan. AZ037.2: M.P. Jamarin, Paris, 1900; Wencke, Hamburg; purchased by J. Pierpont Morgan through Jacques Seligmann & Co., 1906.

These elaborate saltcellars, one decorated with salamanders, the emblem of the French king François I (r. 1515-47), and the other with three interlaced crescents, the insignia of Henri II (r. 1537-59), are rare examples of the extremely fine, complex ceramics produced during the mid-sixteenth century in France, perhaps at Saint-Porchaire, a town in the southwest, or in Paris. Fewer than seventy known examples of Saint-Porchaire ware survive.
Also called Henri II-ware or faience d'oironn.
The Saint Porchaire pottery factory was active by 1542, producing a unique form of lead-glazed earthenware. The clay is finely grained, off-white paste, the forms intricately inlaid with strapwork and covered with a transparent lead glaze.
These salt cellars have the salt receptacle at the top. They are decorated with the salamanders in flames, device of King Francis I, and the interlaced crescent of Diane of Poitiers.