Formed as a small oval, slipper shaped vessel, the bourdalou is a lady’s urinal or chamber pot designed for use in public places such as churches or while traveling. The earliest surviving examples of bourdaloue are circa 1710 European products; these vessels were usually made of porcelain or pottery, particularly delft, but are known in silver or japanned metal. They were made throughout the Continent and in England, with export examples made in both China and Japan.

The vessels name is purportedly derived from a famous French Jesuit priest, Louis Bourdalou (1632 to 1794), whose sermons were so popular that congregations gathered hours in advance to hear him preach. The long waits necessitated a means of bladder relief among the ladies, hence the use of these specialized vessels, said to be carried in the lady’s muff.

Examples of the form made at Meissen, Sevres, and the Vienna porcelain manufacturers are frequently beautifully decorated and colored, leading some in later generations to believe them to be sauce dishes.

Reference note by p4A editorial staff, 07.09.

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