Skip to main content

NOT for Gravy! The Bourdaloue

I hope you all had a Happy Valentines Day.  I just had some minor surgery on Tuesday so I wasn't up to going out.  Shawn and I stayed home with Ashton and the three of us had a candlelight dinner together.  Trevor is working at a local ice cream shop so he was busy working and Kalyn, poor, boy-friendless Kalyn, who is also currently grounded, sent us a text yesterday afternoon pleading to let her "have one night off to go to dinner with some of her single friends while those in love celebrate"? 
 We totally caved and let her go. 

  Last month, my sister had told me that she's been hooked on watching Downton Abbey.  I have to admit, I watch so little tv that I didn't even know about Downton Abbey until she told me about it!  Since then, I've been nagging Shawn for us to watch it together.   So after dinner last night, we decided to start watching the series on Netflix so that we could start with the first episode.   We have been missing out is all I can say!  We stayed up until after midnight watching the first three episodes and I cannot wait to watch more tonight.  

Well, whenever I watch films set in this era I'm always looking for fact I was contacted about supplying some for a movie set not long ago...but that's another post...maybe.  One of the serving pieces I spied in a dining scene got me thinking about how the pieces I'm about to show you are often misidentified, even in museums at times.

Take a look at the following items.  

Are you thinking these are gravy boats?  Perhaps they are creamers?  Well, if that's what you're thinking, you're not even close.   Each of these examples is called a bourdaloue: aka a porta potty, a chamber pot, a loo, coach pot or a slipper pot but these are ergonomically designed for use by a woman. Although the examples I've shown are all blue transfer printed, bourdaloues were often gilded and exquisitely detailed or even made of silver.

 Imagine the dress of the 18th century female; spreading hoops and silk petticoats made with yard upon yard of costly fabric.  Now imagine nature calling with all that material and cumbersome clothing to maneuver! With the assistance of the lady's maid, a bourdaloue could be slipped beneath the skirts and petticoats and then carried away.  
 As legend has it, though some historians argue this is not so, the little potty is named after a French Jesuit priest at the court of Louis XIV named Louis Bourdaloue.  Churches had no toilets then, and no breaks were given during sermons and with the priest being known for his long discourses it is said that women sat through them with a bourdaloue placed under their dresses.

 This example below is called Old Peacock and was made in the early 1800's by Spode.

Below, this bourdaloue dates to 1830 and was made by Wedgwood in the Landscape pattern.  Wedgwood referred to them as 'coach pots', for as the name implies, they were often used during long horse drawn coach travel.

My first thought after seeing this painting by Francis Boucher was 'What a perv' in regards to whomever commissioned it.  It depicts a woman pulling up her dress to use her bourdaloue.  I wasn't even sure I wanted to post it on my blog, but here you go.   

Common Ground
Country French Cottage
Romantic Home
Charm of Home
Wow Us Wednesday


  1. Well I learned something new today! Thank you!

    I suspect that portrait probably hung in the more private areas of the house. Can you imagine trying to have dinner with that hanging on the wall? heeheehee!

  2. can something so pretty have such an "ewwww" factor? My first thought was gravy boat. I feel for those that will read this and have been serving gravy from theirs!

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. I had exactly the same thought as Sue!
    Perhaps they could have done with more pelvic floor exercises!

  5. You are a true fountain of knowledge! Love it! Hope your surgery went well.


  6. I've always wish I lived in those days because the dresses were so pretty, but when you think about the way!!!
    Have a great weekend!

  7. Very interesting. Thanks for the lesson. I never knew about those. And, I would never have imagined that they'd be so pretty.

  8. Nancy, it interesting to read all your information. I recall the first time I saw a bourdaloue at an antiques dealer in France. It made sense seeing how complicated those dresses and petticoats were. Can you imagine how heavy all that fabric was?
    Thanks for sharing.
    Glad you and Shawn and Ashton enjoyed the evening together. We are totally hooked on DA. '-)

  9. Well...ahem...Interesting to say the least!'s just funny that something so pretty could have been used for something so mundane as "nature calling" but hey like I tell my baby..when you have to go, you have to go..why not doing it in style! Thanks for the post into other matters..I hope your surgery was nothing too serious and you are resting and recovering! Big hugs my friend! it's always such a pleasure..Bourdaloo or read your posts!
    Liy @

  10. Ah, I always enjoy your history lessons!!! I love DA, and look at all the wonderful antiques, rugs, paintings, decor.and espcially the marvelous fashions, the daughters are smart dressers....hope you get to see the special about the real manor house and tour all the 'real' rooms. The Lord in the early part of this century funded the dig that discovered King Tut's tomb!!!!

  11. Nancy, your posts are always wonderful. Strangely, I have seen several paintings on the same subject at auction recently. I still think "What a perv!" as I have yet to ever see a painting of men using a chamber pot (or tree, as the case may be!) Pity the poor chamber maids.....

  12. Well live and learn! You had an interesting posting. I have always loved to see Francis Boucher's paintings. I am hooked on DA also, and did see the special telling about the castle and the Tut digging expedition. Now Nancy get your rest and get well.

  13. Great post, I love that painting and would hang it in a beautiful powder room. I never in a million years would have know what these little pots were for!

  14. Thanks so much for this interesting posting. You learn something new every day...always wondered, never knew. Enjoy Downton while you recuperate...there are tons of us watching it right along with you! Thanks for your great blog, and for welcoming us into the world of transferware...just love it! I've recently been left with several items from my mom's estate, and am really appreciating the pieces more since I follow your blog. Have a restful weekend!

  15. I learned something new today and I thank you for imparting that factual piece of information. Thinking about it makes sense that some sort of 'appliance' was needed to relieve oneself but the thought of seeing these and knowing what they were used for just kind of makes me shutter..Hope your surgery went well and I am glad you are posting again!

  16. Thanks for teaching me something new today!

  17. I just spewed milk out of my nose everywhere!!!!!!!! I am laughing so hard I'm not sure I'll make it to the bathroom!!! (So I guess one of those would come in real handy for me right about now!!!) That is SO freakin' funny!!!!!!!!!!! Oh, my goodness! I am just about to bust wide open! Oh, have given me the laugh of the month! Poor chamber maids having to carry that thing away after. Ugh! The whole thing about sitting over one of those in CHURCH....hilarious! I mean...wouldn't the people around the lady HEAR it? Smell it?!?!?! What would happen after church? Ugh!!!!!!!!! Just too much to think about!!! :-) :-) :-) This was a good one, Nancy! Now I'm off to clean our bathrooms and thanking my lucky stars for them!!! I hope you're feeling better following your surgical procedure.

  18. Oh, so funny! Hope you are feeling better!

  19. Well, that was certainly an "up-lifting" post!! Seriously, the pieces are really pretty, but I cannot believe someone spent all that time painting that subject matter. Thanks for sharing the information and I hope you are feeling much better.

  20. On a completely different subject, I would like to know how you recommend hanging plates on the wall. I have a bathroom decorated with black and white toile and transferware plates, but I'm not sure they are hung in the most secure way. One came down, sadly, and broke. Before I put the rest of them up I would like your recommendations with brand names, if possible.
    Thanks so much!

  21. Change of subject, I just found your site and I love it! Thanks so much!

  22. Hi Nancy! Thanks for the amazing and hilarious and informative post!!! I wonder what happened when the sermon was over and the ladies had to stand up???? Did their maids come around to gather the ... well, you know what I mean!!! I can't imagine the circumstances which led up to someone commissioning that painting! Wow! Now I will be on the lookout for these and I will know they are not gravy boats!! I hope you are feeling better. Enjoy Downton Abbey. Tonight is the last episode of the latest season and I will be sad to see it end! Linda

  23. So THAT'S how they did it! Thanks for the enlightenment!

  24. Nancy, I had a bourdaloue in my shop and I was constantly asked if it was a gravy boat. That is a strange painting and very risque for the times.
    xx, Sherry

  25. Thank you so much for posting this, Nancy. Despite their unexpected use they are incredibly beautifuyl. And as always I learn so much when I come to visit you!

  26. OMGosh How interesting, I just love learning something new and you are definitely the most educated person when it comes to transferware dishes.

    That painting is over the top for back in those days LOL it also is very educational . I always wondered how and where they went to the bathroom , we call it


  27. Hope you are feeling better Nancy! Thank goodness I read this and I don't, in the future, go on boasting about my new gravy boat! Ha! Thank you for joining Home Sweet Home!

  28. Your post gave me a good laugh! I guessed what the items were, but only because I recently bought an ironstone chamber pot that I found at a thrift store. It's plain white except for the backstamp, which has the lion and unicorn crest of England and the words "J & G Meakin, Hanley, England". None of the store clerks knew what is was used for, either, even though it was a Mennonite shop. I only knew because when I was a little girl, our summer cottage in Muskoka didn't have plumbing or electricity. Everyone was afraid to take a walk through the forest after dark to get to the outhouse, so we had a pot. My father built a little wooden chair with a hole in the seat to fit over the pot, so the girls could sit down "on the job". The kitchen faucet was a hand pump and the bathtub was a big, galvanized metal washtub. If you wanted hot water, you heated it in pots over the gas stove. I still think of those summers as the good old days. :-)

  29. Glad u are back, missed u. Feel better soon. Liked COACH pot info, where can l get a copy of that print? Love your blog,and all the pics of your home.

  30. NANCY, WHERE CAN I FIND A COPY OF COACH POT GIRL,BEEN ALL OVER GOOGLE, FIND EVERYTHING BUT THAT!Love it for guestbath. Thanks for all your hard work. Love reading your archives. New blog reader but not new to loving transferware.

  31. Hi There, I am trying to find out the title of this painting that you have listed by Francis Boucher, I have looked him up and there is no reference to this painting, do you know the title?

    Many thanks Anne


Post a Comment

I love hearing from my readers. I appreciate the time you take to post a comment and I read them all.

Popular posts from this blog

English Cottage Living Room - Before, Partly After & Still a Work in Progress

I am sorry for not posting more pictures of the progress we've made settling into this new (to us) home.   It seems life rushes by so fast and that at times, doing little things, even those that I love and enjoy, often get pushed aside and onto the back shelf of my mind where I tell myself, "I'll get to this later".  Well, it is later and though I don't have as much to share with you as I'd like, I'm going to at least share my favorite spot in our living room.  I promise to show the rest of the room soon but for now the opposite half of the living room has been occupied by my daughters boyfriend who has been staying with us for the past 7 or so weeks until his apartment is ready for him to move into, and so the couch is usually made up for him to sleep on!   Here is a photo of the current living room just as we found it, a small room just off the entry of the house with a nice marble and wood fireplace surround, hard wood floors, beautiful crown mouldi

The History of Johnson Brothers and The Friendly Village Tablescape

Last week, Shawn and I popped into a couple of estate sales and I picked up over 100 pieces of Johnson Brother's The Friendly Village .  I think I may have to hang on to 12 of the dinner plates and use them this year at Thanksgiving but the rest of them, including this 48 piece service for 8, will be you know where. I don't know about you all, but I have had enough of Summer and I am down right ready for the cooler temperatures of Autumn.  I've been doing a lot of rearranging around the house….I'm in one of those zones where I've got a zillion projects going on, even if half of them are just in my mind that I'm contemplating!   We've also been moving kids out and around.  Three of them are out and the three still at home are moving or rearranging their rooms around.    Since I am yearning for Fall, haven't posted any tablescapes in a while and just got these Friendly Village pieces I decided to set the table with them.      Oh great, I

More Traditional Red White & Blue Rooms with Transferware

A couple of weeks ago I shared some pictures of beautiful rooms in red and blue color schemes decorated with transferware .    Here is another roundup of rooms that I adore, all with red and blue color schemes and all with transferware!  Enjoy!  (via Traditional Home) (via enchanted home) (my old living room) Joining some of the following parties: Between Naps on The Porch Transformation Thursday at  The Shabby Chic Cottage Feathered Nest Friday at  French Country Cottage Friday Inspiration  At The Picket Fence Cindy at  My Romantic Home Funky Junk Interiors Charm of Home No Minimalist Here WOW  Amaze Me Mondays  Making Monday Link Party  Motivational Mondays  What'd You Do This Weekend?   Inspire Me Monday   Make It Pretty Monday   Monday Link Party  Inspire Me Monday 

Decorating with Brown Transferware & $100 GIVEAWAY

Brown was introduced as a transferware color around 1829-30 and is the least expensive of colors to make. Therefore it is fairly common, so far as transferware goes, to find.  It is also one of the most collected colors and it is probably the most versatile of colors in my opinion.  Brown is neutral and looks good with any color scheme from pastels to rich jewel tones, but it is with the ushering in of Autumn that I see it popping up in home decor and vignettes the most.  Though, most of these rooms and vignettes are decorated with brown pieces year round, it just seems the perfect time to share them.  I may have to do another post because there are so, so many more equally beautiful spaces that have incorporated the use of displaying brown transferware  and I can't fit them all here. So, check these lovelies out and then stick around for the giveaway at the bottom of the post. This vignette just stole my heart the first time I saw it.  So many of us have vintage luggage

The Aesthetic Movement and Transferware

What is the Aesthetic Movement? The Aesthetic Movement refers to a period of time in the late 19 th century (1870-1900) which was a backlash to the formal Victorian years.  Artists and writers of the Aesthetic movement period maintained the belief that art should provide refined sensuous pleasure, rather than convey moral or sentimental messages.  They believed that art did not have any didactic purpose; it need only be beautiful.  Japanese art had a great influence on Aestheticism. Aesthetic interiors were often decorated with Japanese prints, screens, fans and other objects. An appreciation of the art of Japan is seen in the work of many Aesthetic artists and designers such as James McNeill Whistler and E.W. Godwin. photo credit Country Living The Aesthetes developed the cult of beauty, which they considered the basic factor in art. They ascertained that life should copy art and considered nature as crude and lacking in design

My English Country Mom Cave

Susan, at Between Naps on the Porch is hosting a Home Goods Mom Cave contest with four lucky winners.  Come on in to my little niche I've carved out of my house.  This is where I work, create, relax, read and chat with friends and family. This is one of my favorite spots in the house to read about one of my favorite subjects...English transferware or poetry, and drink tea.  I often start and end my day right here. Next to the chair is an antique dumbwaiter which holds some decorative items as well as lots of poetry books.  This is the view of the room from the wing back chair.  This cozy room serves as a small living room, although it's not uncommon to have 8 or 9 of the girls in here during family gatherings.  It's usually where we all wind up to have coffee and visit. . On either side of the sofa I display some of my vintage Canine figurines on Spode meat drainers. Above the sofa are some of my favorite paintings.  The one directly over the sofa my Mom pain

Decorating with Blue Transferware and a GIVEAWAY!

   If you haven't already been over to Enchanted Home , you'll want to go over after you finish this post because the wonderful Tina, who authors the incredibly gorgeous blog,  has a great post up about decorating with dishes plus she's hosting a giveaway to my online shop, English Transferware !  Details at the end of the post! I know Tina loves blue and white (just look at her header and you'll know!) and has a collection of her own. In honor of Tina, I've decided to share some of my favorite images of rooms decorated with and often around blue transferware collections.  You can see more rooms decorated with blue transferware on my Pinterest board . To me, Charles Faudree is just about as synonymous with English transferware as he his with French Country Decorating...he seemed to always find a use for it in his incredibly detailed decorating schemes.  Isn't this bedroom charming? I love this next image from Decor Magazine.  Look how the blu