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Faience or faïence is the conventional name in English for fine tin-glazed earthenware on a delicate pale buff body. The name is simply the French name for Faenza , in the Romagna near Ravenna, where a valued painted ware on a clean, opaque pure-white ground, called majolica, was produced for export as early as the fifteenth century. "Majolica" (or "maiolica") itself is a garbled version of "Maiorica", for the island of Majorca was a transhipping point for refined Spanish tin-glazed earthenwares being shipped to Italy from the kingdom of Aragon at the close of the Middle Ages, the Spanish pottery tradition itself a Moorish inheritance.

Delftware is a kind of faience, made at potteries round Delft in Holland, characteristically decorated in blue on white, in imitation of the blue-and-white porcelain that began coming from China from the early sixteenth century, but quickly developing its own recognisably Dutch décor.

In France, centres of faience manufacturing developed from the early eighteenth century at Rouen, Strasbourg or Quimper. This latter owns an interesting museum devoted to the faience.

The term "faience" has been extended to include finely-glazed ceramic beads found in ancient Egypt or in the Indus Valley Civilization.

Last updated: 10-29-2005 02:13:46