You can’t beat antique French Faience for weird and whimsical tableware, and this colourful collection is one of my very favourites.  At the head of this feathered army, we have Le Roi or The King.

Rather haughty, isn’t he?

These plates seem to have been through the wars; some of them are in pretty rough shape. 

They’re scarcer than hen’s teeth, if you’ll pardon the expression, and I was anxious that they not fly away like the first set of these I missed on eBay several years ago. Long time readers may recall that I’ve been hunting for these plates for years. They were my introduction into the wild and woolly world of humorous French Faience plates, and I’ve picked up several sets in dribs and drabs over time.

Remember the bicycles? 

And the Whimsical Automobiles? That bathtub…

Then we had the children on the French Delicacies Plates.

And who could forget Don Quixote?

Sometimes the plates are more whimsical and less humorous, such as the Choisy le Roi rabbits.

And the Richard Froment Character Plates.

The antique scenes are just plain pretty and allowed me to use the bright blue optic glassware. 

But all that collecting and table setting started with this elusive set of seven plates on eBay. Very inexperienced with bidding at the time, I  got ambushed at the last minute, and the plates vanished to another bidder. I searched and searched for similar plates, trying all kinds of descriptions: “bird soldier,” “whimsical birds,” “bird characters.” 

Then, finally, several years later, a battered set of four appeared for a song. I don’t usually buy damaged plates, but those wretched birds had stolen my heart, so I was prepared to put up with a bit of battle-scarring. Three more, in better shape, popped up a few months later. Some were duplicates, but that was fine. And then a lone ranger appeared, a better version of one of the four in rough shape. And voila! We have a table featuring Feathered Combatants.

The Mousquetaire (or Musketeer we Anglos would call him).

I love the lighted fuse and the battered appearance of the feathers.

The Hallebardier.

Named for that multi-pronged stabbing device he is holding upright, halberds were in prominent use during the 14th to 16th centuries. That seems about right for the feathered soldiers’ depicted period costumes.

As one would expect, there are injured parties.

The invalid, or L’invalide.

Looking very sorry for himself.

Le Docteur perhaps attended him.  Very pompous.

Standing on a plinth.

So that’s six in total. I believe there are twelve in the series, as the Mousquetaire has the number twelve off to the side. Only a few of the plates are numbered, which made it very lucky to find this one.

I know we should be looking for Fracasse (I take that one to mean fracas or shatter/smash in French) from the original listing.

The Spadassin, meaning swordsman or bully. I thought it might be “assassin,” but no. He is quite dashing with his feathered hat and hooded cape.

Lastly, there is Le Lansquenet (a foot soldier). Lansquenet was also a card game played in central Europe during the 15th century and beyond. I remember it being referred to in These Old Shades, a well-loved book by Georgette Heyer.

I wonder what the other three might be? Won’t it make for a fun table when all twelve are mustered?

Meanwhile, we shall content ourselves with eight plates, including a couple of repeats. Styling the table took some thought. The pink edging and grey feathers were the most consistent features and colours, so I used those as the base. Grey and pink jacquard linens seemed appropriate, and I continued the subtle grey tones with pewter Emerson dinner plates by Juliska and galvanized chargers.

Many pink tulips in various shades echoed the rosy pink in the King’s Crown Cranberry Flashed goblets by Tiffin Franciscan.

I can’t remember where I picked up the square pewter open salts,  but they match the Juliska Pewter nicely. 

A cheery table for a chilly winter day.

Tulips make everything brighter, don’t they? A lifesaver in the winter months.

We are nearly at the end of January, and the days are becoming noticeably longer and lighter. Only one more month of winter (she says, optimistically). It can blow and bluster all it likes – February is a short month. I plan to sit it out by the fire, reading, planning spring tables, and baking. Gordon, my business partner, bought me some wonderful books for Christmas, and I’ve read both of these from cover-to-cover, enjoying them immensely.

Regula Ysweijn is a Belgian Food Historian. Firstly, I found it tremendous fun that a Belgian wrote about British food; secondly, I’d never heard of a food historian, but it makes sense, weirdly. “With over 100 iconic recipes, The British Baking Book tells the wonderfully evocative story of baking in Britain—and how this internationally cherished tradition has evolved from its rich heritage to today’s immense popularity of The Great British Bake Off.  With lavish imagery and evocative narrative, the expert-baker author details the landscape, history, ingenuity, and legends—and show-stopping recipes—that have made British baking a worldwide phenomenon.”

Breaking Bread is the story of author Martin Philip: “Yearning for creative connection, Martin Philip traded his finance career in New York City for an entry-level baker position at King Arthur Flour in rural Vermont. A true Renaissance man, the opera singer, banjo player, and passionate amateur baker worked his way up, eventually becoming head bread baker.” A captivating story, it is beautifully written. I’m eager to try several of the recipes, though I still haven’t mastered sourdough culture. Grrrr…

Enjoy the day, all.