CHAPTER II

 

THE 'ART POPULAIRE' OF LA BORNE :

THE DECORATIVE PRODUCTION

OF THE TALBOT DYNASTY

 

      Though the abundance of clay and wood are themselves sufficient evidence that pottery would have been practised as a craft in the region since those eras when man first settled there, the documentary evidence of the late sixteenth and later centuries does little to throw light on the selection of the pottery sites by the particular families, or dynasties, that were to establish them as centres of production, and to develop and expand them to the point where the potteries of the region of Henrichemont were to become some of the most important in France.  Members of the pottery dynasties in La Borne, undoubtedly the largest of such settlements, have always maintained that their craft had been established in the locality by Scottish soldiers who, having participated in the Hundred Years War, had been attracted by the bountiful supply of clay and wood with which the region was endowed:

 

          '... La fondation serait dûe à une colonie

          anglaise ou écossaise qui s'y fixa au

          moment de la guerre de cents ans.  Le

          fréquence de noms anglais dans en grand

          nombre de familles pourrait l'attester,

          comme aussi certains vestiges restés dans

          les bois et qu'on nomme encore les forges

          des anglais. ... ces lointains ancêtres ...

          devenus ensuites de bons français ... les

          habitants ont honté beaucoup de force

          morale et physique, beaucoup entêtement,

          de fierté et d'un peu d'orgueil ...' (l)

 

      This perception of the origin of La Borne and its dynasties, delivered by Lucie Talbot in the local chapel before the archbishop of Bourges in l927, is one of which the source is now unknown, but it had been sufficiently strong in the middle of the nineteenth century to elicit comment from one of the first modern historians of the Principality of Boisbelle-Henrichemont who, writing about the region, noted:

 

          '... On prétend même que ce dernier a été

          peuplé par une colonie d'Anglais, ainsi

          que le village de La Borne.  Un fait

          certain et qui a été constaté par un

          médicin éclairé du pays, M. Perrusant,

          c'est que la population de La Borne a

          été longtemps d'une beauté qui va en

          décroissant à mesure qu'elle s'allie

          avec les populations voisines ...' (2

 

      Like Lucie Talbot, advocates of this ancestry point to the many surnames which could either be Celtic or Anglo-Saxon in origin, or local corruptions of such names as, Saumon (Salmon), Foucher (Fisher), Bedu (Bedu), Cocu (Cooke), Turpin and Talbot, all of which are still numerous in the area.

 

      That strong Scottish links do exist is an incontrovertible historical fact.  The guard of Louis XI had included a number of Scots archers, and they had eventually settled near Saint-Martin d'Auxigny, from whence some would have been able to move to La Borne. (3)  More specifically, a region in the north of the modern department of Cher is known as 'Stuart Territory', the signory of Aubigny having been given in l422 by King Charles VII to Jean Stuart, Count of Darnley, second son of the King of Scotland, in recognition of military aid received in the wars against the English.  Though Jean Stuart was ultimately to lose his life at Orleans in l429, his descendants resided in the Château de La Vererrie up to l683 when the last male of the line died.  The Château and all the signory of Aubigny was given by Louis XIV to Louise de Keroualle, Duchess of Portsmouth.  In l84l, the property was sold by the Duke of Richmond to the Marquis of Voguë, great grandfather of the present owner - Antoine, Comte de Voguë. (4)

 

      As more sophisticated amateurs interested themselves in La Borne following World War I and the distinctive role of the Talbot family became the subject of research, the legend tended to centre largely on their name.  Raoul Toscan, an enthusiastic writer on local affairs, wrote in 'La Vie Berrichonne'...

 

          '... les Talbots, d'origine ecossaise,

          installèrent dans ce coin du Berry toute

          une dynastie de potiers, mais de potiers

          qui furent de véritables artistes ...' (5)

 

      However, the fact that modern historical scholarship was beginning to question the myth is evident in his continuing comment:

 

 

          '... Sans doute M. Gordon, spécialiste de

          l'étude si passionnante des Ecossais en Berry,

          pourrait-il élucider ce problème.  Mais,

          comme nous l'avons déjà indiqué, il existe

          peu de documents ...' (6)

 

      Exactly one hundred years after Aymé Cécyl had observed the distinguishing beauty of the potters of La Borne a publication, reported by Chaton and Talbot, claimed:

 

          '... des archives retrouvées dans un château

          de Sancerrois prouvent qu'un Ecossais du

          nom de Talbot, qui guerroyait dans le

          contrée, y découvrit un filon d'argile, se

          fit potier en terre, et ne quitta plus le

          pays ...' (7)

 

      Efforts by these authors to trace the archives and the château were of no avail (8), yet the unique place which La Borne and the Talbot family were soon to occupy in the field of popular art remains sufficient proof for those who find the legend a seductive possibility.

 

      Archival records for the parish of Henrichemont reveal that the name Talbot was common in a number of locations in the immediate vicinity.  Not only were they to be found in the little village of the same name, but members of the family were established in the small cluster of houses, adjacent to Henrichemont, known as Maisons Neuves.  It is in l669 that they are first recorded as being in La Borne when, on Spetember l6, François Talbot married Elisabeth Auchère. (9)

 

      From this union there developed three branches of the family, two of which have continued in activity down to the middle of the present century, the majority continuing to exercise the professions of 'potier en terre' or 'marchand potier'. (l0) (Plate 7)

 

      In a community where six families constituted almost half the population and where many of the christian names were repeated through generations, it became necessary to identify each individual by a personal sobriquet.  The Talbot family, whose favoured names were Jacques, Jean, Pierre and François, were, in l707, identified thus: 'Pierre Talbot dit Cadet Le Mouche, François Talbot dit le Carte Fine and François Talbot dit le Maigre. (ll)

 

      Such individualization was a common practice in the village and, within living memory, Chaton and Talbot, in their book consecrated to the potters of La Borne, have recorded those many familiar names which were of such general usage that their genuine family names were often forgotten - names such as Le Dinde, Le Perdrix rouge, Le Belette, Lalouette, Gambetta, Cavaignac, Le Cuirassier, Tête d'ail, Le Farceau and Le Potier! (l2)

 

      The use of clay and ceramic forming processes for the production of forms other than the exclusively functional had been a universal one, as is evidenced by excavations on sites once occupied by the most ancient civilizations, where the earliest manifestations of ceramic sculpture, dating from 6000 B.C., have been discovered. (l3)  In France the production of such ceramic sculptural forms was part of the production of virtually all regional pottery centres by the end of the Middle Ages.  Lepoittevin and Leburruyer describe the succeeding centuries as:

 

          '... les siècles qui ont vu l'âge d'or

          de l'art populaire et notamment dans la

          sculpture modelée.  Combien de bouchons de

          fontaines, de pichets, de 'Bacchus' ou de

          'Jacqueline', d'épis de faîtage

          anthropomorphes ou zoomorphes, combien

          d'écritoires ou d'encriers, où l'utilisation

          n'était que prétexte pour la création de

          véritables petites sculptures ...' (l4)

 

      That such technical processes were not only the domain of the peasant-potter can be seen in the impressive academic bust of the Berrichon historian, Gaspard Thaumas de la Thaumassière ( l62l-l702 ) (Fig. 7)  Both its forming process and the characteristics of the clay suggest that it had been fired in one of the vast 'fours couchés' of the region. (l5)

 

 

 

The First Evidence of Popular Art in La Borne

 

      Shortly after Aymé Cécyl drew attention to the distinctive physical characteristics of the bornois potters another local historian, Buhot de Kersers, noted:

 

          '... On a trouvé aux Pelles, commune de

          Morogues, un assez curieux produit de la

          fabrication de La Borne: une enorme jarre

          de 0.80 m. d'ouverture, decorée de lignes

          de terre faconnées au doigt.  On y lit:

          Fait par Guillaume Girault, quit par

          Jacques Talbot, ce vingt-cinq juillet

          l775 ...' (l6)

 

      It was, as de Kersers indicated, one of the large basin-shaped ceramic containers - a cuveau de lessive - used for washing clothes. (Fig. 8)  That which distinguishes it from the rest of the current production is the fact that it is signed and dated.  As the oldest extant piece bearing a reference to a member of the Talbot family, it represents the continuation of a practice which appears to have commenced in the area just after the middle of the eighteenth century, that of signing selected pieces of the production.  The oldest which has survived to the present day has the date l760 inscribed on the base.  This is an épi de faîtage, (Fig. 9)(Fig. 9i) a sheath which was used to protect the vertical extending member of the timbers used in the construction of roofs.  Normally made of metal, they were often made in fired and decorated clay in pottery regions in France. (Plate 8)

 

      In white clay and covered with a mottled brown glaze, it is in the form of a pierced bell ornamented with single and double raised spirals, small moulded figurines and impressed rosettes.  Another épi de faîtage of the same period shows the figure of a man emerging from a sphere.  This inscription of the base reads: 'faite moy Enjorrans puissans seigneur/Pellé/ce l0 décembre l772/pottie.'  Family tradition asserts that the figure represents Jean-Baptiste Anjorrant Seigneur de La Croix, an officer in the French Guards who had it made and placed on the barn of his domain.  As to the artist, he was evidently from La Borne, as this is the only village of potters where the name was then known. (l7)  Other early signed works are a small watering bottle and a lidded 'terrine à pâté'.  The former an 'arrosoir d'intérieur' bears the inscription 'Apartien à Monsieur Le Curé de Coigny du/ l5 Juillet l777/fait par moy/Cholet', while the 'terrine à pâté' has the name "Jacques Talbot" engraved on the lid.  In a form determined by that of a crouching hare, it is decorated with raised bands of clay, impressed fleurs de lys and chevrons. (Fig. l0)

 

      Of the same year, l777, is a roof ridge tile inscribed 'J. Talbot ce juillet l777 / à La Borne'.  The author of both of these pieces can only be presumed to be Jacques Talbot, born in l759 to Jean Talbot (l724-l785) and his wife, the former Madeleine Chenu. (l8)  Of the four children who were eventually to inherit the estate of Jean Talbot on 6, fructider An l0 (l802) one, Jean-Baptiste, had moved to Henrichemont where he had become a tailor.  The potter of l777, Jacques-François, was by then a Sergeant-Major in the French army and stationed at Puy. (l9)  The remaining sons, Jean-Pierre (l767-l822) and Jacques-Sébastien (l769-l842) had remained as potters in their native village.  Of the former little is known though it has been suggested that he might have been the author of some of the earliest dated anthropomorphic pieces made in the village.  One, a jug whose top and pouring lip are in the form of a man wearing a three-cornered hat, is dated l789, six years later than a liqour bottle of female form whose stopper is the bonnetted head. (20)  On both, one finds the wood ash glaze which is a distinguishing feature of most of the pieces of that epoch, one that was eventually to be dominated by Jacques-Sébastien Talbot and his daughter Marie.

 

 

Jacques Sébastien Talbot (l769-l842)

 

      The most impressive and representative examples of work attributed to the Talbots are today housed in the Musée de Berry, Bourges, as well as in the exceptional collection of François Guillaume.  Twelve extant pieces bear the signature of Jacques-Sébastien while, through a detailed stylistic and technical analysis on the occasion of the major retrospective exhibition 'Potiers en Terre' du Haut-Berry, mounted in the Musée du Berry in l962 (2l), Jean Favière and his colleagues felt sufficiently confident to attribute approximately forty other works to his hand. (22)  The existence of some purely functional pieces shows that, like all the other potters in the village, Jacques-Sébastien made the usual range of utilitarian ware whose forms had evolved over time; the various sizes of saloir, pitchers and containers for oil and vinegar.  Two in particular, a 'baril' and a vessel for cider, are ample evidence that he was a virtuoso of the wheel.  The latter, a 'cidrier' attains a height of approximately forty inches and is patently an example of part of his current production, bearing as it does the inscription, ' fait par moi Talbot Jacques-Sébastien potier à La Borne par Henrichemont-Cher '.  In a small cartouche one reads 'prix de la pièce 25f'.  (Fig. ll)  Of much greater significance is the fact that, in virtually all the remaining works, the basic wheel thrown forms have been extended and modified by the imposition of a rich surface treatment and the addition of supplementary forms which invest them with a novel and imaginative sculptural character.  Presumably capitalising on the earlier tentatives of his older contemporaries, Jacques-Sébastien consolidated a form of popular art - the sculptural ceramics known as 'les pièces de fantaisie' - which was to be perpetuated and developed by four succeeding generations.  This unique creative endeavour has bequeathed us a body of work of exceptional variety - wayside crosses, household fountains, inkwells and writing stands, ornamented jugs and bottles etc. - whose dynamism was to be sapped and finally extinguished as the village declined and eventually succumbed to the new products of the industrial age.  In the opinion of Favière, it is valid to propose a three stage periodisation in the one hundred year evolution of the 'poterie de fantaisie':

 

          (i)    '... un âge primitif: la production aux

                 rares échantillions antériure aux

                 premières années du XIX ème. siècle ...'

 

 

      Among these feature the pieces already referred to.

 

          (ii)   '... un âge classique avec l'oeuvre de

                 Jacques-Sébastien ... de son petit

                 cousin Jean Chenu ... et une partie de

                 l'oeuvre de Marie Talbot ...'

 

          (iii)  '... un âge baroque à deux phases ...' (23)

 

 

Age Classique

 

      One of the most imposing monumental works signed by Jacques-Sébastien is the tall wayside 'croix de carrefour' (Fig. 12) which in times past, had been erected at the entrance to La Borne.  That others had been made in the village is evident from an entry in the journal of a local chronicler from nearby Henrichemont:

 

          '... les 7 et 8 juin l779, fut fait au milieu

          de la grande place de cette ville, un petit

          calvaire, que lequel fut placée une croix de

          terre cuite qu'avaient faite les potiers de

          La Borne ... Un grande vent abattit cette

          croix qui fut rompue et brisée le l3 février

          l78l ...' (24)

 

      Such calvaires, a common sight in the French countryside, were mostly made of metal or carved in stone.  Of those produced in La Borne, only nine have survived, and most appear to have had the crucifix mounted on top of a wooden post.  That of Jacques-Sébastien, recomposed today in the Musée du Berry, Bourges, is constructed of a vertical column of nine thrown cylinders surmounted by a crucifix at the foot of which are two modelled figures. (25)  It is finished in the distinctive light-toned wood-ash glaze.  Exactly how many crosses based on this model were to be produced is now impossible to say, but that they were a feature of the surrounding countryside can be seen from the comment made by the nineteenth-century archaeologist, Arcis de Caumont:

 

          '... Beaucoup des céramiques grossières que

          l'on vient y chercher avaient un caractère

          religieux.  C'étaient, (Soit) d'énormes

          calvaires destinés à orner les carrefours

          des sentiers ombreux du sancerrois ...

          Sur le socle rond se tiennent deux on quatre

          personnages de fantaisie.  Une inscription

          indique quelquefois la date de l'érection et

          le nom du propriétaire ...' (26)

 

      Of those originally created, only nine have survived the passage of time.  The small figures at the foot of the crucifix are not 'of fantasy', but normally represent a Saint John and the Magdalen or praying peasants.  As for the name of the proprietor, only one bears such an inscription. (27)  One can only presume that many of the more personalised crosses described by de Caumont may have suffered a fate similar to that of the calvaire erected in the square at Henrichemont.  That of Jacques-Sébastien attains a height of approximately twelve feet, and on the second cylinder from the bottom there is the inscription: 'Faite par moi/Jacques-Sébastien/Talbot potier /a La Borne Commune/D'Anrichemonts/ce l0 mai l82l' Kyrie eleison/Christie eleison/Kyrie eleison/pater noster.

 

      The lower cylindrical members are smooth whilst the others become progressively enriched with decoration as they ascend.  Some are adorned with a diamond-shaped geometrical pattern achieved by imprinting or by incised lines.  The fourth from the bottom is relieved by four, now empty, niches which are topped by cherubic heads over which a serpent undulates.  The top three form a highly ornate entity in which small uniformed figures, modelled in high-relief are either set in niches or alternate with tiny conifers against the decorated background. (Fig. l3)

 

      The mourners at the foot of the crucifix are those of the the Magdalen and the Baptist, rather than the Evangelist.  The physiognomy of all these figures is distinctive, and can be seen to remain a constant in all of the human types of Jacques-Sébastien - almost spherical heads, long triangular noses, globular protruding eyes, and hair treated as broad, flat locks. (Fig. l4)  Modelled in the round, they are dressed in the costume of the period, as peasantry with short vests, often with waistcoats adorned with rows of buttons and occasionally, as in the household fountain - 'fontaine' - of the Guillaume collection, sporting a kind of magistrate's toque. (Fig. l5)  Five such fountains remain, neither signed nor dated, but the characteristics of the figures are unmistakably those of his autographed works. (28)  Sometimes soldiers, sometimes civilians in semi-military dress, there is an ambiguity in many standing guard on the fontaines and croix de carrefour.  Though those at the foot of the cross may have had their origin in church statuary or popular art, the figures on the column may be either a 'souvenir de la conscription ou évocation de la chasse dans ce pays ou celle-ci (avec ou sans permis) est de tradition.' (29)

 

      The five fontaines, varying in height between twelve and seventeen inches, that have been attributed to Jacques-Sébastien are modified wheel thrown forms, and are representative of an aesthetic sense which is a curious mixture of force and attention to detail.  The forms are strongly stated with an effective balance established between the positive and negative values.  Incised, stylised floral motifs, provide a delicate and restrained embellishment on the flat planes.

 

      Other than those decorative elements which have been modelled, all the pieces of Jacques-Sébastien, except for a few, have had their origin on the potter's wheel, either as simple forms like the 'pichets', the jugs topped by a tri-corned head which doubles as a pouring lip, or the elaborate fontaines in female form, and épis de faîtage in which a number of thrown components are welded together before being enriched with traced, impressed or added decorative elements.  Two of the former are signed and dated, l824 and l83l respectively, the latter bearing the inscription 'ce brot apartien à moi Baujar, l83l, Jacques-Sébastien Talbot'. (Fig. l6)  In white clay, its light grey glaze is that most commonly found on the works of the 'Age Classique', though some attributed to him are unusual in that they bear coloured glazes which vary from a greenish yellow to light brown. (Fig. l7)  In their form, such pichets may very well have been influenced by the popular 'Jacquelines' produced by many regional faïence factories during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. (30)  The three-stage 'épi de faîtage' in the Guillaume collection, sensitively conceived and decorated, and surmounted by a pigeon, similarly bears the light grey glaze with overpourings of one of a dark brown-green.  This is one of the signed and dated pieces, bearing the early inscription 'l8l0, faite par Moy Jacques Talbot de la Borne comune d'Henrichemont.' (Fig. l8)  In the same collection is the fontaine attributed to him, a female figure holding a dog. (Fig. l9)  Except for the dark clay used to represent the bobbed-hair, it is in white clay, with the glaze welling into the impressed motifs and carved lines, imposing a restrained sophistication which emphasizes the slender verticality of the form. (3l)

 

      The sculptural and representational qualities that such pieces display led at one time to the belief that they had been made as extras to the current production of individuals such as Jacques-Sébastien.   Favière takes issue with this assertion and is at pains to point out that each object retains its original function, despite the incised or traced decoration or the complexity of its sculptural intent.  Deriving from the wheel-thrown form in almost every case, they remain 'pots', each with its own defined function (32) and, as such, Favière argues, are no more than the 'specialised' production of certain pieces of domestic equipment such as the fountains, terrines à pâté or other which were made to commemorate specific events in family life. (33)  This consciousness of the utilitarian is a critical, if not the most critical, characteristic of the Age Classique, and is one which differentiates its products from those of later generations.  It would be impossible to refute Favière's assessment of the manner in which the mind and the hand of Jacques-Sébastien combined to develop his style:

 

          '... Pour autant que l'on sache, de tels objects

          existaient déjà dans la production des potiers,

          mais aucun de ceux-ci n'avait jusqu'alors

          développé aussi loin et avec une pareille logique

          les possibilités de son métier.  Aux grandes

          fontaines et aux épis en forme de personnages

          "Montées comme des pots" l'usage de la forme

          tournée à des fins plastiques donnent une rigeur

          sévère en même temps qu'une noblesse raffinée

          rendue plus parfaites encore par la distinction

          de la couverte grise à la cendre de bois ...' (34)

 

      Also belonging to the Classic Age, though not to La Borne, are two pichets, one attributed to, the other signed by Jean Chenu, presumed to be the cousin of Jacques-Sébastien Talbot. (35)  Bearing similar impressed motifs, the former is finished with the ash glaze. (Fig. 20).  The latter, 'c'est un grand pichet à tête de personnage masculin coiffée d'une tricorne formant bec verseur, couvert d'un émail au laitier très sombre qui témoigne en même temps que d'une grande habileté d'un sens aigu de l'ironie.' (36) (Fig. 2l)

 

 

Marie Talbot (l802 - Circa l860)

 

      Jacques-Sébastien was married three times, firstly to Marie Girault (l775-l807) who bore him two children, François-Laurent - (l80l-l865) and Marie.  Only one piece signed by the former remains, whereas more than sixty were either signed by his sister or can be attributed to her with confidence.  Of the ten she signed, none are dated, for which reason it has been impossible to propose a chronological sequence for her works. (37)  It is evident however that, for the twenty years prior to the death of Jacques-Sébastien in l842, Marie and he worked in such complete harmony that, for some pieces, a definitive attribution to one or other is almost impossible.  The pichet inscribed 'Curé d'Argenton' (Fig. 22) illustrates the problem similar to that encountered in attempting to attribute the large fontaine in the Musée du Berry.  Favière notes that, had it not been signed by the father, he would have been inclined to attribute it to Marie, adding:

 

          '... Une longue et étroite collaboration

          devait unir l'un et l'autre et il n'est pas

          invraisemblable de penser certaines pièces

          façonnées par celle-la, signées par celui-

          ci ...' (38)

 

      In the wake of her father, Marie Talbot made a number of épis de faîtage, fontaines, vinegar cruets, pichets and bouteilles for various liquids, revealing in each a refined understanding of the potential of the material, as well as the inventiveness of an exceptionally creative mind.  Many, in their monumentality, equal the quality of his best pieces, as can be seen in the signed, twenty-seven inch fontaine, glazed in light grey and with the hair in brown relief. (Fig. 23i),(Fig. 23ii),(Fig.23iii)  With an alms purse suspended from the right arm, (39) the hands are placed on the lower stomach, a characteristic of its sister figures.  The unglazed fontaine (Fig. 24) is, to all intents and purposes, identical with that in the Musée des Arts et Traditions Populaires in Paris, (40) and like the others is typical of the modified thrown forms of the Classic Age.  The basic bottle shape is reduced in diameter to form the waist, neck and head.  The vertical linear decoration, stripes on the bodice impressed by a 'roulette' and  pleating on the skirt achieved by carving, complement the form.  Thrown arms with sleeves, an impressed slab across the shoulders relieved by two rows of delicate clay shavings around the neckline, and the coiffed head are the three dimensional additions.  The large hem of the skirt contains the inscription 'Marie O Marie Talbot.'  Similar in form are the 'bonnes femmes', the traditional 'bouteilles de mariage', (4l) varying in height between ten and twelve inches.  Each is a personality in its own right, those in the Musée du Berry (Fig. 25) denoting acute observation of the costumes and attitudes of the contemporaries of Marie Talbot, 'd'inspiration tombée sous l'oeil de l'artisan.' (42)  The figure holding a bird and signed 'fait par moi Marie Talbot à La Borne', (Fig. 26i),(Fig. 26ii).(Fig.26iii) is a refined marriage of form, surface treatment and decoration, and in the sensitivity displayed towards her materials, as well as towards the subject, contrast markedly with the biting comment one sees in the caricature bottles, believed to have been made by her.  For obvious reasons they have been dubbed 'type caricatural', (43) each of those in the Musée du Berry depicting a feminine figure, usually with hands on hips or joined across the waistline. (Fig. 27)  Whether they represent her perception of specific local types or are no more than a figment of her imagination, one can only speculate.  The treatment of the head and shoulders adds a further dimension to the acute observation and differentiation perceived in the other bottles and fountains.  The exaggerated features, hairstyles and decorated necklines display a command of the material which, in facilitating expression of the perceived form or type, allows her to escape the banality of a repetitive static form.

 

      Although Jacques-Sébastien is credited with having been the first to produce small decorative objects used in the area as traditional marriage presents, it was Marie who produced those that today are housed in the Musée du Berry, pieces such as the writing sets and candle holder where the accord between the material, the form and the decoration is governed by a perfect equilibrium. (Fig. 28)  There appears to be little doubt as to the purpose of the former - 'écritoires' - in which two elegantly clad lovers are seated within a delicately formed bower on which is perched a dove.

 

      Gifts of this nature were already an established custom in the region and were part of the specialised lines produced in the faïence factories in central France. (44)  Though it now seems that the fontaines and épis de faîtage had been made for prosperous clients, there is little doubt that the clientele of the Talbots extended across all social stratae, leading to Favière's conclusion that the 'art populaire' of La Borne ought not to be dismissed as merely 'l'art des pauvres', as opposed to 'l'art des riches.' (45)  Though the identities of the original clients may now be forgotton there would appear to be little doubt that the 'encrier' in the form of a bridal carriage (Fig. 29i),(Fig.29ii),(Fig.29iii) was devised to record a local marriage.  Three such pieces have survived, two by Marie in the Guillaume collection, and one by Jacques-Sébastien.  Those by Marie are about ten inches long and depict a horse drawn, delicately decorated, landau in which is seated an elegantly clad pair of newly-weds.  Behind stands the coachman. (46)

 

      Like Jacques-Sébastien, Marie Talbot made pichets, the majority of which are covered with a soft, warm grey wood ash glaze, (Fig. 30) sometimes modified with salt, and it seems safe to assume that these, like others similarly finished, were made in the period of close collaboration with her father.  More than he, she resorted to the use of laitier which, ranging in tone from yellow to brown as on the 'bonnes femmes' in the Musée du Berry, was occasionally augmented by the oxide of minium in a tentative excursion into polychrome effects. (Fig. 3l)  The ash glaze, used with such refinement by Jacques-Sébastien and his daughter, is progressively abandoned in La Borne, to disappear almost completely in the work of her half-brother, Jean Talbot.

 

 

The 'Age Baroque'- Jean Talbot (l809-l873)

 

     By his brief second marriage to Anne Binon, who died in l809, Jacques-Sébastien had a single child, Jean.  Like his half-sister, Marie, Jean remained in La Borne, continuing, like his father, to be first and foremost a potter.  Undoubtedly endowed with a mastery of the wheel, he initially relied on thrown forms which he then modified and decorated.  Most of his pieces are unsigned and undated, rendering it impossible to propose a chronological sequence for the evolution of his total oeuvre, though the presence of his name on a few significant monumental pieces have revealed particular characteristics that have facilitated the attribution of many others: (47) - 'une abondante production, très homogène et bien caractérisée par un certain nombre d'éléments de décor et de style.' (48)  The decorative wares attributed to him can be broadly sub-divided into the following categories:-

 

(a)  Thrown Forms

 

     These can be further sub-divided into:-

                       (i)   Large monumental pieces such as fountains, croix de

                             carrefour and épis de faîtage in which individual

                             members are firstly thrown on the wheel before being

                             modified and assembled.

 

                      (ii)   Functional ware such as 'pots à tabac' which are                                            enriched with impressed and engraved decoration.

 

                       (iii)  Sculptural Forms, oftimes having a utilitarian function, in

                             which the original thrown body is significantly modified

                             by pronounced sculptural additions.

 

(b)  Hand-Modelled Forms

 

      Executed by the assembly of pinched and sculpted components and

      flat slabs of clay.

 

The Thrown Forms

 

      The discovery of a signed fragment of the base of a 'croix de carrefour' provided the key which facilitated the attribution to Jean Talbot of the large cross in the Guillaume collection. (Fig. 32)  It follows the form set by his father, and like his, is composed of wheel-thrown members which are subsequently modified before assembly.  By contrast, the twenty-two inch high fountain in the same collection (Fig. 33) clearly shows the difference between his approach and that of his father and sister.  Whereas in their aesthetic there is a controlled equilibrium between the material, form and decoration, that of Jean is dominated by a marked tendency towards a profusion of impressed, engraved and applied decorative elements.  The body is devoid of the fluidity and plasticity of the wheel thrown form and becomes a support for a display of decorative detailing.  The braided military jacket, epauletttes, collar and bicorne are proof of his undeniable manipulative skill, as is the attention he has accorded to the hair, moustache and face.

 

      While such treatment neither possesses the delicate finish nor elegance of the work of his half-sister, it does display a rugged, highly personal, style which makes his pieces readily identifiable.  The most immediately overt characteristic is his almost total dependence on the minium glaze.  Though normally giving a high glossy brown, one occasionally finds a striving after polychrome effects.  This choice of colour range would appear to have been the result of a conscious rejection of the wood-ash and laitier glazes, both of which were still readily available. (49)  His épi de faîtage, (Fig. 34) though conforming to functional requirements, displays a tendency which one can perceive in other aspects of his work, one where the ornamentation begins to assert its dominance over its supporting form.

 

Functional Ware

 

      Where his functional pieces are primarily decorated thrown forms, Jean Talbot relies on a number of characteristic decorative elements, which he appears to have developed and used continuously.  Notable are the small impressed circles, centred on a point, which he develops linearly on borders.  These are often accompanied by an engraved undulating line or a small band of repeated lines.  Such motifs were used on an extensive array of pichets, bottles, jugs and lidded tobacco-pots. (Fig.35),(Fig.35i)  (Fig.36) In many of the pieces so ornamented, there remains a harmonious relationship between form and decoration, however the most significant development in his personal stylistic evolution is to be found in his attitude to this interrelationship.  In a second aspect of his work one finds that strong predeliction for decoration which characterises his total oeuvre, with a more profuse use of impressed and added elements allied to a heightened emphasis on the more picturesque, leading to a progressive predominance of ornament.  Initially hand-modelled and restrained, he is swept along by a dexterity and imagination which endows his work with the quality of the baroque, (50) eventually to produce pieces like the 'cache-pots' and tobacco jar, (Fig. 37i),(Fig.37ii) where the decoration supersedes, and ultimately annihilates, the form which it is intended to embellish.  This progressive diminution of the possible function is, in the opinion of Jean Favière, one of the first signs of decadence to be perceived in the popular art of La Borne, adding:

 

                                   '... le jour ou les potiers ont créé des

                                   objets sans autre fonction que décorative

                                   leur art était virtuellement condamné ...' (5l)

 

      A further step in this decline can be detected in a number of his pichets.  Based on the forms made popular by his father and half-sister, Jean Talbot appears to have been the one who initiated the technique of applying moulded decorative faces to the thrown form, (Fig. 38) a practice which, for economic reasons, also became widely used in other pottery centres in France. (52)  Though the bodies of the pichets remain decorated with his characteristic devices, this usage inevitably leads to forms in which there is an evident failure to achieve the unity that is evident in those produced by either Jacques-Sébastien, Marie, or Jean Chenu.

 

Hand-Modelled Forms

 

      Though in some instances he openly responded to the influence of his father and half-sister (Fig. 39), Jean Talbot fashioned a little world peopled by figures from local legend like the Saint Solange of the Papelier Collection, (Fig. 40) 'écritoires' commenting on incidents in local life, such as the school-master with pupils (Fig. 4l) or the purely sculptural piece depicting a religious ceremony. (Fig. 42)  A number of figurines also came from his hand, each displaying invention, observation, and often, comment on wider events, like the armed figure mounted on a camel. (Fig. 43)  The history of one such figurine may help to explain the sobriquet 'Cavaignac' which was used to identify his branch of the Talbot Dynasty.  Discovered in Paris by an amateur, it evoked the exclamation from Alexandre Talbot-Lamotte, Jean's grandson, 'Le Napoléon de mon grand-père'.  Describing the incident, Favière continues:

 

          '... Si l'on sait que le sobriquet de

          cette branche de la descendance de J-S

          Talbot est "Cavaignac", on comprendra mieux

          ce caractère volontairement grotesque du

          cavalier qui pourrait bien-être Louis Napoléon

          Bonaparte ...' (53)

 

      The succeeding two generations at La Borne witnessed the perpetuation of the decorative tradition of the Talbots, though this second phase of the 'Age Baroque' was to be enacted through two brances of the dynasty, namely the 'Cavaignac', Jean Talbot (l844-l9l5) and Alexandre (l875-l956), son and godson of Jean Talbot respectively, and a grand-niece of Jacques-Sébastien, Marie-Louise Talbot (l846-l923), and her daughter-in-law, Valentine Chameron (l866-l954).  With the death of the latter and that of Alexandre, whose sons, as a result of the economic crisis of the mid-thirties, had left La Borne to seek employment in neighbouring Saint-Amand-en-Puisaye, the production of 'l'art populaire de La Borne' came to an end.

 

The work of the 'Cavaignac'

 

      Following the use of moulds introduced by Jean Talbot, both his son and grandson, though remaining excellent producers of the traditional utilitarian ware, resorted more and more to the 'la recherche de solution faciles par l'estampage et la reproduction moulée des modèles.' (54)  Faithful in some instances to earlier forms, the disjunction, both aesthetic and technical, can be clearly seen in the pichet (Fig. 44) and bouteille (Fig. 45) in the Guillaume collection.  Up until l9l4, when such production ceased, one can perceive a logical, if ill-advised, extention of this technical innovation, to a point where, relying wholly on moulds which bore no relation to their tradition, they cast tobacco jars (Fig. 46) and fontaines (Fig. 47) which, Favière argues, led to the total degeneration of their art. (55)

 

 

Marie-Louise Talbot and Valentine Chameron

 

      Marie Talbot, whose married name had been Devailly, had died without issue, and it was left to the grand neice of her father, Marie-Louise, to continue the female tradition in the village.  Other than three pieces by her father, François, nothing more is known to have been produced by him.  By contrast, throughout her long life Marie-Louise produced a wide range of decorative objects that display an extraordinary sensibility to her materials and techniques even if, at times, she too was seduced by the products of the modern industrial world.  Holy-water fonts, pichets and bouteilles retain the forms of her elders while not inhibiting her obvious dexterity and innate creativity.  The écritoires in the Papelier collection offer ample evidence, even if that depicting a wild-life scene (Fig. 48) loses its formal impact through an over-dependency on the coloured glazes. There can be little doubt that 'Le retour au pays(Fig.49), (Fig.49i) with its delicate modelling and coherent composition, elevate it to a high rank in the history of 'l'art populaire' of the village.  Married around the end of the Second Empire to Antoine Chameron, a carpenter from Vignerolles (Indre), who had come to Henrichemont to work on the construction of the new church, (56) it was for this edifice that she created one of her most imposing and monumental pieces, the Virgin in a bower. (Fig. 50)  Local tradition has it that she herself did not throw on the wheel but adorned pieces made by her father or son. (57)  While such may have been the case with the Virgin, it is in the complexity and delicacy of the construction of the bower that one can see and understand a surety of technique and a mastery of her medium.  Once more it is oral tradition which described her responding to the desires of her clients who provided her with prints of the period as sources of decoration for pieces they were commissioning from her. (58)  Likewise, it was the mass industrial product of the nineteenth century that provided the model for the pair of candle-holders in the Papelier collection. (Fig. 5l)

      Following the marriage of her son to Valentine Cordier, it was she  with whom Marie-Louise worked until her death in l923, following which her daughter-in-law, by then a widow for seven years, continued producing pichets, bénitiers, encriers, sifflets and salières. (59)  Though many of her pichets successfully repeat the form and decoration determined by her predecessors, others rely on a dominating, sprigged, floral decoration, the inappropriateness of which is emphasized by a less than sensitive use of a strong tonal contrast. (Fig. 52)  At its weakest, her perception of her art leads to such pieces as the pichet (Fig. 53),(Fig.53i) where the formal coherence of the moulded face on its supporting form are obvious, and this despite the fact that in l927, in her figure of the butcher in nearby Morogues, (Fig. 54) she had seemingly found an individual style that, had it been pursued, may have prevented the total decline of the decorative art of the Talbots during the latter years of her long life.