12 October 2017

Maiolica : Art of the Renaissance Potter

Maiolica is the name given to the tin- glazed earthenware which flourished in Renaissance Italy...
Maiolica wet drug jar, Montelupo, Italy, 17th Century. Available at Guest and Gray

In the early 1400’s, fine ceramics from Moorish Spain began to reach Italy, mainly through the trading port of Majorca, from which ‘Maiolica’ is thought to derive its name.

The Spanish ceramicists had mastered the art of the tin glaze, whereby tin oxide (purchased as a powdery white ash) is applied to kiln-fired clay. The glaze produces the characteristically opaque white background, to which other colours are delicately applied. 

 Maiolica was used for a variety of practical wares such as plates, bowls, tiles and drug jars; but it is perhaps best known in the form of the show dish.

Large decorative dishes in the Istoriato style, (translated literally as ‘painted with stories’) became popular in the 1500’s. Historical, biblical and mythological scenes inspired their decoration.

The chemical qualities of the tin glaze protect and preserve colour and line with a glass-like finish. The technique has ensured that over hundreds of years the distinctive designs of Maiolica appear much as they did when they were first produced, offering a fascinating insight into the visual world of Renaissance Italy.

Maiolica is produced in Italy to this day and workshops throughout Europe have sought to revive it's unique aesthetic since the Renaissance. If you are enchanted by the beauty of this fascinating ceramic, we've selected some original antique and revival style pieces available at Grays...
Maiolica plate, Castelli Italy, c.1700. Available at Guest and Gray.

Maiolica 'Istoriato' dish, Urbino, Italy, c.16th century. Available at Guest and Gray
Maiolica Apothecary Jar, Montelupo Italy, c17th-18th century. Available at Guest and Gray.
'Istoriato' Show Dish, Continental Revival, c.1800. Available at Patrick Boyd Carpenter
Maiolica Armorial Jar, Montelupo, Italy, c.1500-1520. Available at Guest and Gray.

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