Posted by: Lizzie Ross | July 22, 2010

A Passion for Ceramics

The Faïence Violin (1893), Champfleury, tr. William Henry Bishop, Appleton, 170 pp.

Courtesy: NYPL Digital Gallery

I got hit with the Antique-ing bug while I was living in the UK more than a decade ago, but I was lucky to never reach the level of obsession with objects displayed by the hero of this book.

In late 1850s France, Dalègre finds himself deputized by his friend, Gardilanne, to buy up any samples of faïence pottery he can find where he lives, in the province of Nevers. Dalègre takes on this task with good humor, but eventually finds himself drawn into the world of collecting and becomes, as the author explains, “engaged” to faïence, a powerful mistress who demands complete immolation of the soul.

That may seem like overstatement, but Dalègre’s character changes drastically when he falls in love with faïence, and learning that a faïence violin exists nearly destroys him, especially when his former friend but now collecting competitor, Gardilanne, locates the violin that had been practically at Dalègre’s feet.

Champfleury provides a sometimes amusing, but too often sad picture of the collector’s mania. To get a sense of Dalègre’s passion, take a look at a photo of a faïence violin at Gorgeous, but would you sell your soul to own it?

Access this book on line at It’s worth the afternoon you’ll spend reading it.

BTW: W H Bishop, the translator, wrote his Preface in “Washington Heights, New York City”. My neighborhood!



  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by CeramicPartiesToGo, Atelier Marla. Atelier Marla said: A Passion for Ceramics « The Ineluctable Bookshelf: A Passion for Ceramics. The Faïence Violin (1893), Champfleury… […]

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