A majestic garden ornament pot in glazed terracotta with a molded base, a jewel of French craftsmanship, the Anduze vase embodies the perfect union between nature and art. A craft tradition that has been perpetuated for centuries in the Cévennes foothills, giving rise to objects of rare beauty and timeless elegance.

Born in the second half of the 18th century, Anduze vases are said to have adorned the parks of the Château de Versailles. Recently, a shard of Anduze vase dated 1804 was discovered in one of the estate's parks; the Maison du Chêne Vert was commissioned to supply the Château with the vases that today adorn the "triangular room" in the Parc du Grand Trianon. In fact, before being an objet of art, the Anduze vase was first and foremost developed for citrus production, to protect trees from winter frosts. It has come back in trends in recent decades, being sold all over France and the world.

Some influence, some southern talent

The influence of the Italian Renaissance on French art is a key element in the history of the Anduze vase. It was during the 16th century that Italian craftsmen immigrated to France, bringing with them their expertise in pottery and ceramics. Their artistic contribution gave rise to a new style in France, some Italian refinement: elegant, slender forms. Technically, Italian potters introduced new methods of manufacture and decoration. Enameling, for example, gave rise to bright, brilliant colors and ornamental patterns such as garlands of flowers, vine leaves and mascarons.

Garden ornaments of rare elegance. The scent of Italy...

It's impossible to tell the story of the rise of Anduze pottery without mentioning the influence of the Ottoman Empire. Turkish ceramics were highly prized in Europe at the time, with their floral, geometric and arabesque patterns and bright colors. As a result, French craftsmen adopted some Ottoman manufacturing techniques. For example, glazing, which consists in covering paintings with a transparent glaze to make them deeper, or patina, to give an aged, worn appearance, thus creating an authentic, timeless appearance.

In the 17th century, the town of Anduze became an important center for pottery production, thanks to the quality of its clay and the presence of outstanding potters. Vases began to be made using the terracotta technical of shaping clay, drying it and firing it in a kiln. And it was by drawing on their Italian and Ottoman heritage, through a cultural fusion, that Anduze's craftsmen created unique vases, real jewels, combining finesse and robustness, which gradually approached the characteristics of the pottery that would soon make THE "vase d'Anduze" that we know.

Finally, in the mid-18th century, a Cévennes potter went to the Beaucaire fair, where he was seduced by the elegance of Medici vases and the opulent decorations of Florentine vases. On his return to Anduze, he was inspired to create the first Anduze vase, a fusion of vases previously made in the Cévennes and Italian vases.

The dynasties

In the 17th and 19th centuries, many families produced Anduze vases, the most famous being the Gautier family (they are said to be the creators of the Anduze vase in its current form) and the Boisset family. Later, other dynasties such as Caulet, Trouvat, Bourguet, Castanet, Faucher and Rodier developed their production. The Clauzel family settled in Tornac, while the Favier and Dupas families established themselves in Saint-Jean-du-Gard.
During the 19th century, these potteries fell into disuse and most of the firms producing them closed down; some merged or were bought out, notably by the Boisset family. Today, there are 9 potteries in Anduze and the surrounding villages known for their production of the famous vases, including the Boisset heirs "Les Enfants de Boisset", Le Chêne Vert (known for their patinas and re-editions of antique vases), La Madeleine (Anduze's largest vase manufacturer today) and Ampholia (known for their patinas).

In the former Maison Rouge spinning mill (Cévennes valleys museum) in Saint-Jean-du-Gard, a superb tribute to the Anduze vase.

How do we recognize it ?

The Anduze vase, an essential element of southern gardens, is characterized today by its specific shape, decoration and colors. It is shaped like an upside-down bell, set on a shower foot, and can be any size: over a metre high as an orange vase, or small as a flower pot, or even very small as a pencil or egg cup. It can be recognized by the presence of two garlands encircling the vase at mid-height, held in place by medallions, essential elements in the qualification of an Anduze vase.
However, over time, each potter adopted his own style and techniques for shaping the decorations, with varying degrees of detail.
Always glazed, traditional vases feature the famous jaspé (a clever superimposition of yellow, brown and green); later, potters would produce them in other, brighter, plain and varied colors: blue, red or green.

Mascarons, garlands and pen-and-ink signatures

The Anduze vase market

Since the 1980s, a dozen or so potteries have been spread across the communes of Anduze, Tornac, Marsillargues-Atuech, Lézan, Boisset-Gaujac, and as far as Alès. This Cévennes vase is the fruit of a local tourist craze, and is the focus of the region's pottery and ceramics festivals during the summer months. For the past 20 years, the Anduze ceramics festival has been welcoming contemporary ceramists and offering a wide range of events based around the making of the Anduze vase, with workshops inviting visitors to discover and learn about the art of pottery.

The Boisset family and their ancestral know-how, from the extraction of their own soil to direct sales in front of their workshop.

In France, cultural interest in the Anduze vase is spreading beyond the region. It's not uncommon to see them on the terraces of Parisian restaurants or in European parks and gardens. Thanks to its history, reputation and cultural dimension, it is now marketed worldwide and plays a major role in the region's tourist appeal. Such is its renown that in early 2017, one of the region's potteries accepted an order for 93 very large Anduze vases for the gardens of the Prince of Saudi Arabia.

This earthenware piece, which is becoming increasingly popular for its elegance, also captured the heart of Françoise Auran-Boudet, as her poem A un vase d'Anduze shows. A fitting ode to this majestic vase.

Maison Gautier