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Arms of Light of Nevers
by Olivier Estienne

These pieces are of a typical character: forty centimeters height, width twenty-six to thirty cm, generally with an oval form. They represent, in low-relief, the bust of a young man, dressed as a page, with a feathered hat and sash. The arm, held in front, holds a goblet intended to receive a candle.

France Nevers 17th CFrance Nevers 17th CFrance Nevers 17th C

These objects were press-molded, the arm being added before firing. The same mold was sometimes used for the manufacture of several plaques, which were painted with differing colors and details, such as the ribbons or hat.

Manufacture extended throughout the 17th century, the oldest known example being from 1601 - that date to be seen on the reverse of an arm of light sold in Joigny on March 20, 1988. Another sold at the Drouot hotel on March 26, 1973 carries the date "Nicolas 1671".

It is necessary to note that the arms of light were made in factories making decorative sets; the characters of these sets looked to the left, looked to the right, raised the eyes to the sky or droped them timidly. It is impossible to reconstitute these sets today. There are also female arms of light, but these are much rarer.

France Nevers 17th CFrance Nevers 17th C

The fashion arose again at the end of the 19th century. Thus, at the opening of the Cultural Museum of Nevers in 1987, one could view a plaque "Jeanne d' Arc", and a plaque "Dunoys" in imaginary costumes of the middel ages.

Earthenware arms of light of Nevers are rare. There are 28 of them known, including 16 in public collections and 12 that have gone to public sale in the past 50 years. Taking into account the normal rotation of this type of stock, one can estimate the total number held in private hands to be about thirty pieces.

Many thanks to Olivier Estienne, author of ceramicscollector.com for the use of this article. © The author.

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