Italian ceramics from the British Museum

I went back to the British Museum just a few days before it closed due to the epidemics.

It was not as busy as it used to be before the virus changed the limits of personal space. This was not unpleasant, though.

I could take it slowly and enjoy my favorite pieces of Italian pottery, time-traveling back to the Renaissance.

The collection of Italian ceramics hosted by the British Museum is of the utmost importance: most of the pieces date back to the golden age of Italian majolica, the 16th and 17th century, and they come from different regions, offering a rare perspective on the differences in pictorial styles, shapes, and glazes.

I did not take pictures, but I’m copying below a blog post from 2015, with some highlights from the collection.


…. November 2015

A few pictures from my last visit to the British Museum, where a significant collection of Italian ceramics is hosted.

The display is quite unattractive and, in my opinion, not very well organized, but the quality of the pieces is really good and definitely worth a visit.

I took some pictures with my phone – not good quality, but enough to whet your appetite.

Two plates or bowls made in Deruta by Nicola di Pietro Francioli in 1515-1530 2015-10-28 16.19.11-1

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The three-legged symbol of Sicily: Trinacria

Trinacria - three legged symbol of SicilyThe Trinacria, also known as Triskelion, is the familiar three-legged symbol of Sicily, Italy’s unique little nugget.

If you visit the island you will be sure to see a Trinacris, symbol of Sicily, everywhere and if you wish to take one of them home you’ll have a large choice, from sophisticated ceramic Trinacria plaques to inexpensive fridge magnets. Of course, we do hope that you’ll go for one of the stunning Sicilian pottery pieces that are handmade for you by local artisans.

Anyway, regardless of your choice, you may want to impress your travel companions and learn something about the origins of the Trinacria or Triskelion and some fascinating stories surrounding the birth of Sicily and its three-legged symbol.

Allow me the pleasure to start from what I like best: the stories.
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Art Deco Pottery, the Taste of an Epoch

Faenza
Feb. 18th – Oct 1st 2017

The Art Deco style developed internationally between the 1920s and 1930s, dominating the architecture and the decorative arts.
It was an eclectic, rich and opulent style, glamorous but at the same time elegant and above all ‘modern’. No wonder then that Art Deco was particularly favored by the modern middle class and lent its esthetical features to new theatres, ocean liners, railway stations, cinema interiors and private houses.

Just like Art Nouveau and Futurism, Art Deco influenced Italian interior and industrial design, fashion design, the graphic arts and, last but not least, Italian pottery, impacting both shapes, materials and decoration. It placed the myth of the machine at its center, replacing symmetries with geometries, and finally making the way for the industrial production.

Francesco Nonni ceramic figurine - Italy

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Tile floors that go down in history

Ceramic tiles have been used for centuries in the Mediterranean countries because they provided a durable floor surface and added color to both public and domestic settings.
Sometimes the tile floor bore the arms of the family who owned the residence or, having funded it, wanted to impress the future generations with their generosity.

Today, we draw inspiration from the elaborate designs of the past to create our own tile floors, using the same techniques that have made the history of these beautiful works of art.


Credits Victoria and Albert Museum - From the tile floor of the Church of San Francesco in Forlì, Italy

Ghenos tile floors and panels

Credits: Espressioni della Maiolica, Salerno
by Tiziana Manzetti

Seriously handmade – ND Dolfi, Tuscany

It does not matter that you like its style, really. What you cannot help is admiring their stunning craftsmanship and wishing to touch it.

Yes, ND Dolfi’s pottery never goes unnoticed. It is a feast for the senses and a superb example of what traditional techniques, experience, passion and eyes wide open on the world can do.

The Dolfi family has been making pottery since 1941. Silvano Dolfi, father of Natalia and Daria, founded his own company in 1994. He did not take long to build a fine International reputation for himself as an artist and for his company.

His daughters have inherited his talents. Together, now that he is no longer with us, they design and hand craft large vases, bowls, tiles, lamps and gorgeous home décor accents. A collection that year after year gets richer and richer of vibrant glazes, bold color combinations and new textures.

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Vietri pottery: a feast for the senses

May 17-June 28, 2015
Vietri – Italy

Clara Garesio is the past, present and future of Vietri pottery. The title of her new exhibition is meaningful: An Endless Spring. And, indeed, the joy of Southern colors, the pulse of the Amalfi Coast, the harmony of Italy inhabit her work.

The exhibition will open in a few days in the Museum of Ceramics in Villa Guariglia that hosts a breathtaking collection of Vietry pottery. A must see.

Clara Garesio - Demetra, 2015 Continue reading

A glazed terracotta dome – Santi Buglioni

The most beautiful things are the unexpected ones.

Last Sunday we decided for a trip to Bevagna (Umbria): a bit of sightseeing and some good food & wine to recharge the batteries after a busy week.
Bevagna is a small village not far from Perugia, with awesome buildings from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, cobbled streets and peoples filling the main square after Sunday mass.

Strolling around, we stepped into Saint Frances Church and we found a jewel: a glazed terracotta dome made by Santi Buglioni.

We took some pictures with the mobile phone and, despite the poor light, we believe they manage to convey the beauty of this work that is, we were to discover, not very well known.

Santi Buglioni terracotta dome - St Frances Church in Bevagna

Santi Buglioni terracotta dome - St Frances Church in Bevagna

The author of the dome, Santi Buglioni, is an Italian sculptor who lived and worked in Florence in the 16th century, when glazed terracotta was a very popular decorative technique, thanks to the talents of the Della Robbia family.

Santi inherited the secrets of this technique and actually worked with Giovanni Della Robbia in the Ospedale del Ceppo, in Pistoia, one of his most famous works, where he sculpted the frieze that runs along the entire length of the loggia of the hospital, representing the Seven Acts of Mercy.

Santi Buglioni, detail of the frieze on the Loggia of the Ospedale del Ceppo, Pistoia - Credits "The red list" website

Santi Buglioni, detail of the frieze on the Loggia of the Ospedale del Ceppo, Pistoia – Credits “The red list” website

He was mostly active in Florence, where his glazed terracotta stille decorates the Biblioteca Laurenziana, Palazzo Vecchio and the Bargello.

By Tiziana Manzetti

Why ask for Italian pottery personalization

The personalization is only one of the charming details that differentiate handmade pottery from machine made ceramics, yet it is perhaps the most valuable detail as it has the power to turn a nice object into a cherished piece of somebody’s life.

Raffaellesco Platter by Fima Deruta

Most of the beautiful Italian pottery pieces that leave us breathless when we visit Museums or antique art galleries were made on commission and somehow personalized. The commissioner  briefed the artist as to the message he wished the item to deliver and the artist decorated the pottery accordingly.

Jardiniere planter centerpiece Deruta

Especially popular as wedding gifts, large wall plates, urns, bowls and jars were carriers of moral lessons on beauty, virtue or timeless love, which took the form of images or mottos nicely painted in elaborate scrolls.  Continue reading

Peacocks on Italian ceramics

A source of positive symbolic meanings, peacocks are prominent in Italian pottery.

Pliny the Elder, the Roman philosopher, described very well how the peacock replaces his entire tail of feathers annually. This fascinating event, together with the belief that the bird’s flesh never goes bad but dries naturally, entitled our ancestors to depict him as a symbol of resurrection, renewal and immortality.

Often the representation of the peacocks on Italian ceramic objects focuses on the “eyes” that decorate the birds magnificent tail. Occhio di pavone, the “peacock eye”, has been a popular motif on our pottery: for example on the rim of Renaissance wall plates, on large serving bowls, on our dinnerware.

Rampini's peacock platter, tray, wall plate

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