Many areas of Italy are known for their ceramics – Deruta, Sicily, Sorrento, and Tuscany…with Deruta being the most famous. The ceramics of Deruta are prized for their beauty and their quality. I have many ceramics from Deruta in my collection, but recently, I purchased some ceramics from Montelupo Fiorentino in Tuscany. The Tuscan ceramics are beautiful in their own right – with designs a bit more rustic than those of Deruta, but well suited to a Tuscan home. The look is different, but no less attractive.
Montelupo Fiorentino became a center for ceramics back in the Middle Ages when the Florentine Republic took over the area. Its strategic position between Florence, the Apennines, and the Tyrrhenian coast made it possible to acquire the clay, water, and transportation so necessary for ceramic production and distribution during the Middle Ages. But it didn’t reach its peak until the 15th and 16th centuries when the de Medici’s made it their center of ceramic production. At that time, it began exporting around the Mediterranean and gained in popularity for it’s sturdy and beautifully decorated pottery.
Montelupo Fiorentino was hard hit during the plague of the 17th century. Production slowed down considerably due to the lack of labor and the economic recession…and it wasn’t until a resurgence in the 19th century that Montelupo Fiorentino once again became a major center of Italian majolica.
Today, the town has numerous ceramic shops and production is once again rivalling that of it’s Renaissance hey day.
Majolica painting in
Deruta Spring City, UT this past weekend! What an experience it was! Gina from Art and Alfalfa was my teacher – and what an inspiration she is. Gina studied with the great masters in Deruta and is an expert in the art of majolica! Her home, which she and her husband built, sits on a large alfalfa farm…and it looks just like a Palladian villa in Italy! Stepping into her home, you feel like you have been transported across the Atlantic Ocean!
My lessons with Gina began with learning the necessary brush strokes and the use of liner brushes. We progressed to transferring patterns to bisque, and then using pigments to color in the design. I learned techniques to create depth, shadow, and even age, to the design. I also learned ways to use the tools I already had at my disposal when I do my cuerda seca tiles!
During my all day lesson, I created five beautiful tiles (even if I do say so myself) and two bowls! I cannot wait to see the finished products after they have been fired in the kiln! Thanks to Gina for her wonderful guidance – and thanks for all the hospitality 🙂
Here are some pictures of my unfired pieces. I will follow up with pictures of the finished product 🙂
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