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The Origin of Italian Pottery
Timamagi from Italy
I’m Italian and I’m passionate about Italian pottery.
Most of my travels, at least the ones I can choose the itinerary of, are about visiting places in Italy where the Ceramic Art tradition is still alive - where I can meet artists and artisans or where I can visit some nice museums. If you share my love for Italian hand-made pottery, whether antique or brand new (but with a soul!), you can learn something from my information. You may also discover some unusual ideas for your next travels to Italy.
I’ve recently visited a beautiful exhibition in Rome, in Palazzo Venezia (Venice Palace). It’s about a most interesting collection of Hispano Moresque Ceramics donated to the Museum in 1935 by the antique dealer and art collector, Gustavo Corvisieri. Most of them, the so-called “Golden Majolicas”, were made in Spain in the 16th -18th centuries. The collection has been hidden in the Museum’s storage room for over 70 years and will soon return there for lack of display space, unfortunately. Therefore, if you are around, don’t miss this unique opportunity! I’ll list the details of the exhibition below.
I am really happy I found the time to visit the museum because it pushed me to learn more about the “loza dorada”, the superb Hispano Moresque golden pottery, and its influence on the origins of Italian ceramics. My plan is to tell you what I learned and to propose an unusual itinerary for you to visit Naples, Faenza and Venice to view these awesome ceramic pieces.
A good understanding of the country along with some simple suggestions may help you make the most of your trip and give you an insight into the fascinating Italian approach to life.
About Hispano Moresque pottery
In 711, a small army of North African Berbers invaded Spain and established an Iberian Islamic culture that would last for over 700 years. This event was to make a major contribution to the development of art pottery in Europe.
Moors were great potters. Their techniques had traveled with them through North Africa to the Iberian peninsula, where they became well established, possibly as early as the 11th century. They manufactured elaborate tin glazed pottery and metallic lusters which were still unknown in Europe. The success of their ceramics was immediate and soon they began to export them all over Europe. Italian people were passionate about Hispano-Moresque pottery.
Local potters had never seen anything like that and wanted to investigate those innovative techniques. Collectors just loved them and ordered celebration plates, apothecary jars and tableware. A massive import from Spain to Italy started in the 13th century. Vessels loaded with pottery arrived in Italy after a stop-over in Majorca, the headquarters of the trade between Italy and Spain. Indeed, the term "majolica", by which such wares are now known, may come from the name Majorca.
At the time, the main production area of Hispano Moresque ceramics in Spain was Malaga, situated in the Muslim reign of Grenade, governed by the Nasrid dynasty. The “loza dorata”, the golden amber yellow lusterware from Malaga, was awesome.
Bertini at www.thatsarte.com
Moorish potters applied a tin glaze over a design that was usually traced in cobalt blue. After the second firing, a luster glaze made with silver and copper pigments was applied by brush over the tin glaze and the piece was fired again.
This splendid finish was first experimented with to overcome a practical issue: the Holy Qran forbade the use of precious materials on the table. The “loza dorata” looked precious but it was made of ordinary materials (and hard work).
On January 2, 1492, the last Nasrid Sultan Boabdil surrendered to the Christian Spanish kingdom. That was the end of the Hispano Moresque ceramic production in Malaga. The most important pottery factories moved to Manises, near Valencia, from where they kept exporting their ceramics all over Europe.
In the meantime, from the 13th to the 15th centuries, Italian potters had been studying and copying the Hispano Moresque ceramics, which they called majolicas, first strictly meaning lusterware, then tin glazed earthenware, in general. Their technique was improving by the day, laying the ground for the Italian Majolicas that became so popular during the Renaissance.
The rise of Italian Majolica, however, was steady and fast. Its beauty and original designs became more and more famous and the import of ceramics from Spain finally stopped in the early 16th century.
The hidden collections of Hispano Moresque pottery in Italy
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