A Brief History of Italian Maiolica

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The Italian art form of Maiolica was born in the red-clay hills of central Italy during the 14th century.  This art form featured vividly-colored pigments painted on a background of creamy white tin glazes.  Initially, the ceramic objects were created mostly for everyday purposes, and they incorporated designs based on abstract and geometric motifs.  Etruscan designs also offered inspiration.  Then human portraits and family coat-of-arms became popular.  Portraits were given to loved ones in the Coppa Amatoria, or “Lover’s Cup”, and the coat-of-arms were painted on plates to impress guests.  Finally, during the height of the Renaissance period, inspiration was derived from the Great Masters such as Michelangelo, Raphael, and Da Vinci, and art was created solely for the purpose of art’s sake.  These artists created an array of designs comprising flowers, fruits, scrollwork, cherubs, vines, and borders in vivid patterns and colors that are still valued today.  Their creativity flourished with the Istoriatos – historical or mythological stories painted on pottery using narrative scenes along with gracious figures perfectly depicted.  The ceramic arts became as important as paintings and sculptures and were prized by the nobility.  The rise of Maiolica’s popularity was in direct correlation to the great wealth amassed by the aristocracy during this time and was crucial to the pursuit of excellence in all the arts during the late 15th and the early 16th centuries. 

Maiolica is still produced in Umbria, Tuscany, and many other regions of Italy as it has been for the last 500 years by an unbroken line of master crafters.  Many of the patterns which existed during the Renaissance are still created exactly as they were then.  Even though the method of production has changed over the years, the creativity of each piece is still the same.  The quality and artistry of a beautiful Maiolica piece still adheres to ancient traditions, especially that of hand painting.  The workshops that fill the small streets of quaint towns such as Deruta give testimony to the unchanging characteristic traits of a beautiful and prized Italian Maiolica piece.   It is still, and always will be, a highly valued art form.

These beautiful ceramics, along with my love of Italy, inspired me to establish my little business which I lovingly named Tesoro, which means treasure in Italian.  It’s an appropriate name for these little gems, don’t you think? 

You can view my online shop by clicking here:  Tesoro Treasures

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