Rosso di Montelupo: A true Italian ceramic masterpiece

Considered the masterpiece of Tuscan ceramics from Montelupo, Tuscan ceramics - Rosso di Montelupo - Museum of Montelupothe “Red from Montelupo” is a large basin richly decorated with grotesque figured and powerfully vivid colors.

It was made in 1509 in Lorenzo di Piero Sartori’s workshop, one of the most prestigious in Montelupo. The author’s signature – Lo – is elegantly painted on the back of the basin, still in excellent condition after more 500 years.

The Rosso owes its name to the red glaze used for its decoration, whose ingredients are still a mystery to date. Very likely this unusual glaze was brought to Montelupo from Iznik, in Turkey, by the Florentine merchants who traded Montelupo ceramics all over the world. Indeed, it looks very similar to a peculiar manganese oxide rich in arsenic extracted in Anatolia.

Surprisingly, Tuscan ceramics - Rosso di Montelupo - Museum of Monteluposimilar decorative patterns with grotesque figures and color palettes were to be found in the same period in Siena, both in the works of the so called “Nessus painter” (Rackham 1977) and in Palazzo Petrucci’s majolica floor.

Indeed, there was a strong artistic connection between Siena and Montelupo in the first decade of the 16th century, right in the middle of the Golden Age of Montelupo ceramics. The shards found in the archeological excavations in the area of the ancient kilns provided further evidence of the influence of Siena artists on Montelupo potters, whose masterpiece is the Rosso basin.

The piece had previously been part of the Gustave de Rothschild collection in Paris. Then it belonged to Alain Moatti, a collector and antique dealer. Montelupo administration and a group of ceramicists managed to raise the funds needed to buy it and proudly donated it to the Museum of Ceramics, as the symbol of the re-established glory of Montelupo ceramics.