Terres Cuites du Maine

In the 16th and 17th centuries, the region around Le Mans became known for its earthenware sculptures. No other region in France has a tradition of such long standing as that of the Maine, specialising in the production of multicoloured religious figures.

This know-how and the abundance of clay, coupled with numerous small workshops, are the main reasons for the important heritage evident today in the region. 

The first clay figures from Le Mans were very primitive, those dating around the 16th century had become more modern and realist. One set which influenced this production, was the marble statues of the Virgin and Child and the saints Peter and Paul created in 1570 by the Parisian sculptor Germain Pilon (whose family originated from Loué) for the Abbaye de la Couture at Le Mans.

The method used by the sculptors is still strongly influenced by the ways used in the previous century: their figures adopt elegant poses where movement is accentuated by complicated folds in flowing robes all combining to stunning effect. 
The freedom and the fluidity of the form permit the modelling techniques ideally suited for the creativity of these sculptors.    From the last years of the 16th century, the Le Mans region developed some well known characters like Matthieu Dionise and especially Gervais  I Delabarre, Charles Hoyau and Pierre Biardeau.  These exceptional artists developed an art particularly original and inventive and had a strong influence on the work of their successors. 
Some images of earthenware sculptures :

Loué, The St-Symphorien church : 
St Pierre, by Étienne Doudieux, 1666, The artist's signature 

Étival-lès-Le Mans, Notre-Dame church : 
The Virgin Mary, from the late 16th century


Chemiré-le-Gaudin, Notre-Dame d’Athenay church : 
The teaching of the Virgin Mary, from the late 17th century or early 18th century.

To discover all the “Pottery of the Maine” of the Vallée de la Sarthe : download the table        

To find out more about the sculptures, visit the website : www.sculpturesdumaine.culture.fr