Ulysse Bertrand: Gien Faience at Its Peak
Friday, January 21st 2022
La Gazette Drouot, 21 janvier 2021
Ulysse Bertrand (1851-1941), set au magot et aux salamandres (With Magus and Salamanders), 1871, Gien faïence, blue mark “Gien 1981”, monogrammed “UB” and referenced “45”, figurehead h. 67.5 cm/26.57 in., vases, 57.5 cm/22.64 in.
The time Ulysse Bertrand (1851-1941) spent at the Gien factory coincided with the height of its glory. No wonder, given the quality of his work.This outstanding item is another of Ulysse Bertrand’s highly original faience (tin-glazed earthenware) pieces. It features French King François I's emblematic salamander in appliqué, as well as Chinese-style decoration featuring lotus flowers in shades of emerald, blue and white, and the figure of a magus seated cross-legged, depicted in the round, dressed in bright yellow. This complete set from a British collection is especially rare since the pieces have often been sold separately.
Bertrand headed the painting workshop at the Gien factory for 64 years. In 1821, Englishman Thomas Hall founded the company, which subsequently changed ownership several times. Bertrand started working there in about 1863 when he was a mere 12 years old. By that time, the factory had been making 18th-century style pieces for about 10 years. Under Bertrand’s prompting, production diversified, following the new fashion for Renaissance, antiquity and Asian art. His work won a gold medal at the 1876 Philadelphia exhibition celebrating the United States’ centennial as well as awards at 1878, 1889 and 1900 Paris Universal Expositions.
His creations are always highly technical and impressively decorated with motifs recalling sculpture or scenes unfolding like large paintings.