craftsman, artist, natural scientist, bernard palissy (1510-1589) lived his life with an admirable ardor and intensity; his autobiographical discourse published in 1580 shines only a dim light on his desperate path of discovery and instruction. during his years of travel palissy pursued his interests in naturalism, alchemy, and geothermy all of which became subjects of his later writings. a revelatory moment in 1540 however changed his direction of interest profoundly - an pottery cup decorated with enamels. his determination to understand the secrets of these enchanting enamels nearly drove his family from poverty into insanity and back. failing beautifully in the sense that after more than 15 years of trying he was unsuccessful in reproducing the elusive qualities he sought so ardently, but in its stead produced his famous eponymous figulines rustiques: the reproductions in high relief of mystical naturalistic pond life, often interwoven with mythical allusions and moist with colorful glazes. meanwhile his work created a stir amongst the social elite and catherine de medicis, which protected him from catholic persecution and through their copious commissions his work was committed to posterity. his work in ceramics reached a reputation of haute-peasant-pottery and his writings attracted a certain reputation for not only he was well ahead of his time in the understanding of natural sciences he also invited other scholars and academics to open lectures on natural history for the first time in paris. constantly living under fear of prosecution his passionate obstinacy is probably what eventually realized his recognition but was also ultimately responsible for his demise; it is reputed that henry III offered him his freedom should he renounce his protestant faith… he declined and remained in the bastille where he died from malnutrition and disease.
i cannot but remain inspired by the beautifully captured dioramas born from this style of rustic ceramics that will forever bear his name.