Barbotine is the French for ceramic slip, or a mixture of clay and water used for moulding or decorating pottery. In English the term is used for two different techniques, though in both cases mainly for historical works. In the first, common from the Ancient World onwards, the barbotine is piped onto the object rather as cakes are decorated with icing, using a quill, horn, or other kind of nozzle. The slip would normally be in a contrasting colour to the rest of the vessel, and forms a pattern, or inscription, that is slightly raised above the main surface. This is normally called slip-trailing in English today, but "barbotine" remains common in archaeology.
The second technique is a term for slipcasting, "couler en barbotine" in French. "Barbotine pottery" is sometimes used for 19th-century French and American pottery with added slipcast decoration. Slip or barbotine is cast in moulds to form three-dimensional decorative sections which when dried out are added to the main vessel. Typically, these might be flowers, fruit, or small animals.
The first barbotine technique in pottery styling was in use in the ancient world. The Egyptians were known to have used barbotine design. As another example, archaeological recovery at Minoan Knossos on the island of Crete in present day Greece reveals barbotine pottery specimens, and it is common in Ancient Roman pottery, where the colour may often be the same as the rest of the vessel.
The second sense of the term entered English via French potteries such as Sèvres and the Haviland Company of Limoges, who used it to describe their pottery in the second half of the 19th century. The term "Barbotine ware" also describes the American art pottery that emulated the Haviland pottery.
- Lauth, Charles (July 1882). "Porcelain and the Art of its Production". The Popular Science Monthly. p. 313. Retrieved 2009-07-23., explains the second technique
- Turner, Jane (1996). The Dictionary of Art. Grove Press. ISBN 1-884446-00-0.
- Horgan, C. Michael. "Knossos Fieldnotes". Retrieved 2009-07-23.
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