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Puebla Patterned Pots: Talavera Ceramics


Work of Art: Chamber Pot

Subject Area(s): Social Studies and Art

Lesson Objectives:

Students will:

  • Discover the origins of Talavera ceramics and its place in New Spain
  • Identify the defining characteristics of traditional Talavera earthenware
  • Examine the history behind ceramic production in Puebla, Mexico


Examine the Origins of Talavera

Talavera is a type of colorful, glazed pottery. Although production of the ceramic has remained in Puebla, Mexico for hundreds of years, its stylistic influences can be traced back to a fusion of Spanish, Arabic, Chinese, and Italian origins. It is thought that in the 15th century Spanish monks from Puebla sent for craftsmen from Talavera de la Reina in Spain to come and teach the people of the region the art of working the clay so ceramic ware and tiles could be created to decorate their monastery and church.

1. Have students examine this ceramic ware. Consider the size, shape, dimensions, and features (for example, does it have a wide mouth, a flattened rim, or handles?) What do the students think this item was used for? Notice the variety of colors and decoration on the surface. Do they provide any clues?

2. This ceramic ware is a chamber pot modeled after a popular style in fourteenth century Spain. What advantages does the shape of this particular vessel present?

Identify Characteristics of Talavera Ceramics

Using strong, intense colors such as blues, yellows, mauves, and greens, Talavera ceramics have highly decorated patterns and designs. The beginnings of Talavera include a confluence of cultures ranging from Spanish to Chinese. Cobalt blue patterns emerged in the 15th century and had a direct influence from the Moors. The Italian influence included the technique of applying pigments on unfired glaze. In the mid-16th century, extensive importing from China to Mexico brought about the similar imitations.

1. Notice the colors used on this chamber pot. What color combinations are used? How do the colors interact with one another?

2. Is this ceramic divided into panels? How do the panels define the pattern on the pot? In what ways does this division invoke movement in the decoration?

Curriculum Connections:

Social Studies:

Ceramic production in the town of Puebla was an extensive industry. This particular example is called azul punche because the painted decoration was applied to a blue ground. The name derives from the Puebla candy of the same color made for the celebration of the Day of the Dead (del Dia de Muertos). Puebla ceramists used polychrome decoration more frequently during the nineteenth century, marking a departure from the blue-and-white wares that dominated for over 150 years. Azul punche ware was so widely distributed that shards have been found scattered throughout Mexico, Texas, and Arizona.

Have students learn more about the history and culture of Puebla. Have other cultural festivals in Mexico inspired traditional art forms? How do you think Puebla has managed to maintain its long tradition of ceramic ware? What kinds of traditions can you think of that take place in the United States that have influenced artists?


Research in greater detail the different cultures across the Atlantic Ocean that influenced ceramic ware, specifically Talavera. Have students study decorative motifs and patterns from these cultures and recreate them using a printmaking activity. Students should make note of any distinguishing flora or fauna patterns. Have students experiment with color, explore positive and negative spaces, and make multicolor prints.

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