19th-Century Palissyware Fish Platter

Value (2003) | $2,500 Auction$3,500 Auction

GUEST:
It was my grandparents' and they took my mother and all her sisters around the world in the '30s, and it's from France, so I think they got it then. But it always hung in their dining room. And I remember as a kid, I would look at it and think, "Oh, that's so creepy looking." And I just thought it was gross. But then when my grandparents died and we got to choose something of theirs to remember them by, I thought, "Well, I associate them with the fish plate more than anything else."

APPRAISER:
So it has a strong personal value to you.

GUEST:
I so associate it with my grandparents' dining room. And they used to say for hospitality that the Chinese custom was to always have a fish on the table. But since a real fish would rot, if you were poor, you would have, like, a paper fish or a wooden fish. But the wealthy people would get a really nice ceramic fish made and it was a sign of hospitality.

APPRAISER:
So do you still think it's unattractive?

GUEST:
No, I think it's really beautiful.

APPRAISER:
Okay, so you've matured in your tastes.

GUEST:
Yes, I have matured in my tastes.

APPRAISER:
Well, let me tell you a little bit about it. In the middle of the 16th century, there was a gentleman by the name of Bernard Palissy that worked in France making this, which is now known as Palissy ware. His name has stayed with the piece as they've developed into the 19th century, and a lot of other firms manufactured similar-type wares. Now, we never see any of the original Bernard Palissy pieces, but what we do see are these types of lead-glaze pieces manufactured in the 19th century, going into the 20th century, as well. They were produced not only in France, but in England and in Germany and in Portugal. Always very typical, naturalistic in style. You always see a lot of lizards and snakes and some seashells, as well. It's a little bit more unusual to find the fish on there.

GUEST:
Is it?

APPRAISER:
If you were to go into a museum and see a period piece of Palissy, you would find the quality to be a lot better. So the quality, it gets a little flatter, but it's still a very interesting piece. It is an earthenware body. This piece has suffered a few damages to it, and a large section of the top has been repaired, and there are a couple of... The head of the snake and...

GUEST:
The tail of the fish, I think.

APPRAISER:
The tail of the fish, as well. It does affect the value, but it's very desirable. It's classified in the majolica category, which is really defined by these wonderful glazes that were used in the European countries at that point in time. The platter was made to be hung. These are purely decorative and just dimensional pieces, rather than flat pieces or round pieces that may have been meant for use. Obviously, with the high reliefs, these were meant purely for decorative purposes.

GUEST:
It's not made to be put in the middle of a table.

APPRAISER:
It's not. Usually produced with a couple of holes on the rim for hanging, as this one does.

GUEST:
Now, are these live castings?

APPRAISER:
They are not.

GUEST:
They're not.

APPRAISER:
They're models, and many of them are hand-modeled pieces. Any concept of its value?

GUEST:
Uh, no. I've looked on the Web to try to find what it might be comparable to, but I've just never really seen anything like it, so I have no idea.

APPRAISER:
With the damages in consideration, and also in consideration of how desirable these pieces are today, I wouldn't be surprised if in the right auction, it would realize in the range of $2,500 to $3,500.

GUEST:
Wow.

Appraisal Details

Appraiser
Skinner, Inc.
Boston, MA
Appraised value (2003)
$2,500 Auction$3,500 Auction
Event
San Francisco, CA (August 16, 2003)
Period
19th Century
Form
Plate
Material
Earthenware, Majolica

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