Pottery depicted in paintings

While reading on Pieter Bruegel earlier this year I noticed something about his Peasant Wedding. In it are depicted ceramic vessels, steins and plates presumably made of clay.

An entire basket full of tankards rests in the lower left corner, where a gentlemen pours drink into one of them. I don’t know enough about ceramic history to know what processes were actually a part of northern European ceramics in the 16th century, but it looks to me like the vessels were wood or soda-fired.

It’s not very difficult to recall pottery in other paintings, although I can’t remember specifically which works my mind is reaching for. Most of the images coming to mind are more refined — porcelain vases in portraits, for instance, of royalty or military types. Bruegel was known for his depictions of everyday life and everyday people, unlike most renaissance painters. Thus the pots in Peasant Wedding are of a different kind, a heftier and more utilitarian kind.

Tim Jones recent still life with persimmons includes a ceramic vase. Know of any other paintings that include images of ceramic works?


About pcNielsen
Paul Nielsen founded The Aesthetic Elevator late in 2005. He owns a piece of paper, located somewhere in his house (not on the wall), stating that he earned a B.F.A. from the University of Nebraska around about 2001. While there, he studied studied architecture, graphic design and ceramics, graduating with a degree in studio art. Paul presently serves as communications manager for a small non-profit doing their print design and marketing. He spends as much time sculpting in his studio as possible — which is not nearly enough. Visit his website at pcNielsen.com.

3 Responses to Pottery depicted in paintings

  1. Emily Murphy says:

    Thanks for pointing out the pots in this painting! They were most likely wood fired, and if it is from Germany, they are possibly fired with salt. Salt firing is thought to have been ‘discovered’ in 14th century Germany when wood from old pickle barrels (thus salt saturated) were added to a wood kiln and the pieces came out all glazed up. Soda fired started in the mid-1970’s as an urban alternative to salt firing.

    I also enjoy finding pots in unexpected places. One of my favorites is to find handmade pots in movies. A few years back I watched the movie “Novocaine” with Steve Martin, and the open scene has a close up shot of an Ellen Shankin mug.

  2. pNielsen says:

    Hm, haven’t heard of Novocaine. Will have to check it out. Steve Martin is a riot.

    Thanks for the details on the pots! Yesterday I added a history of ceramics book to my Amazon wish list. Course, there are about six books I’m already in the middle of that I already own that I should finish first. Course, reading history is probably a little “lighter” than the others I’m into presently . . .

  3. suburbanlife says:

    Velazquez shows some earthenware thrown water and wine jugs in some of his paintings. Presumably they are glazed inside only to retain water.
    My husband brought back for me from Germany a salt-fired traditional jug, similar in form to the jugs in the basket in the Brueghel painting. I like the fact that traditional form, which functions well for its purposes, has remained thus unchanged for so many centuries. This particular jug is made by both jigger and by hand – an interesting combination of a manual and a mechanical process, so I value it for this particular change of production method. It is an interesting example. G

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