Three Day Weekend - Part II


Pierrefonds French Art Nouveau Large Two-Handled Urn with Olive and Crystalline Blue Glazing (LEO Design)


We're in the middle of a three day holiday in France—specifically in the Commune de Pierrefonds, about 50 miles Northeast of Paris.  It was here, in the shadow of the Château de Pierrefonds, that the monumental urn, shown above, was crafted.

Although the castle was first built in the 12th Century, the Pierrefonds ceramics workshop was not founded until 1903.  While the company is not ancient, it was founded just in time to capitalize upon the Art Nouveau and (coming) Art Deco movements.

The pottery maker got off to a rocky start.  It was founded by the French Count d'Arros, Olivier de Sorra—a wealthy man who was also a painter.  His idea was to open a small ceramics workshop within the Medieval castle, making plaques and tablewares bearing Medieval heraldry.  He named his firm the Societe Faienciere Heraldique de Pierrefonds.  Sales, focused on visiting tourists, never took-off.  In 1912, sculptor Emile Bouillon was brought aboard, who relocated the workshop to bigger (more functional) quarters and developed Pierrefond's  signature style of bold forms and sophisticated, crystalline glazes.  He (and later his two sons) expanded the customer base and demand beyond the castle's walls; soon their luxury products were being ordered throughout Europe, Asia, North America, and Australia.  Pierrefonds won the Silver Medal at the prestigious Exposition des Arts Décoratifs de Paris in 1925 (where the Art Deco Movement coalesced).  Emile's sons, Albert and René, continued running the company, which their father had reinvented, until 1966 when it was closed.

While the pottery is now shuttered, the Medieval castle remains a popular sightseeing attraction.  It was first built in the 12th Century, expanded in the 14th Century, and destroyed by Richelieu in 1617.  In 1810, Napoleon purchased the "romantic ruins" (for a song) and began restoration.  His nephew, Napoleon III, continued the work in the mid-to-later 19th Century, and this is the castle one sees today.

The statement piece, shown above, was made in the 1910's or 1920's.  A sophisticated olive underglaze is boldly punctuated with explosions of blue crystallization.  Its hefty size, strong form and exceptional color will make it the center of attention in any room it graces.  Click on the photo above to learn more about it.


Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well!  Please visit our on-line store where we continue to sell Handsome Gifts (

We also can be found in Pittsburgh's historic "Strip District" at Mahla & Co. Antiques ( or in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania at The Antique Center of Strabane (

Or call to arrange to visit our Pittsburgh showroom (by private appointment only).  917-446-4248