Gaspard Robert (c. 1722- 1799), related to the Clérissy family that founded the first pottery works in Marseilles (in the district of Saint-Jean-du-Désert), set up his own establishment in 1753. Before long, his workshops employed as many as twenty-eight apprentices. His abundant output included pieces painted in petit feu in shades of bister, green and purple that made the reputation of the factory and its founder.
This terrine which, like its companion piece (held in the Musée National de Céramique in Sèvres) bears the name of Gaspard Robert, was made in his workshops during their most flourishing period. Its shell-shaped form was a feat of great technical mastery, better suited to the possibilities of metal and matched only by the terrines made in 1735 for the Duke of Kingston after designs by Juste Aurèle Meissonnier (which inspired this piece). To distinguish it from its prestigious Parisian model (known through Meissonnier’s prints), the designer added four small legs which give the terrine the unusual appearance of a quadruped.
This form of terrine, typical of Rococo at its peak (and central to the experiments with form at the Marseilles potteries) was reproduced, with a few variations, by the Veuve Perrin factory, with characteristic decoration on a yellow ground (like the example in the Musée du Louvre). As was often the case in Marseilles, the falsely naturalistic form is belied by the painted decoration which juxtaposes ornamental compositions rather than creating a trompe l’œil effect. The decoration on this terrine is painted in shades of green and bister with yellowish tints, typical of Gaspard Robert’s factory and very different from the bright green used during the same period by Honoré Savy’s rival factory and kept a closely guarded secret. The terrine lid features hunting trophies (hares, woodcocks, ducks etc) and a game bag, placed on grassy mounds; the body has a decoration of flowering stems and bouquets. The lid handle is formed by creatures carved in the round – mussel, clam, gurnard and red mullet – evoking the gastronomy of Marseilles.
This prestigious terrine, no doubt presented on a tray, was probably the principal piece in a service featuring circular tureens (less extravagant in shape), shell-shaped sauce boats, mustard pots, wine coolers, vegetable dishes, dishes and plates…