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There are connoisseurs to whom only the original Malaga or Valencia pottery appeals. Specimens of this ware and type like the Talavera may indeed be obtained today, but not easily. The Spaniard has an inconvenient aversion to letting his antiques leave his country. For those, however, whose greatest interest lies in the decorative and useful possibilities of the pottery a wealth of pieces is made today in Spain in the old-time forms, lustres, glazes and designs. These sell at a comparatively modest cost.
The Spaniard style of interior decoration, with its Latin cheerfulness, seems to appeal to many Americans more than do some of the more austere styles. As a matter of historical accuracy, it is interesting to note that the Spanish-American style of decoration is much more early American than is the pine furniture period of New England, if we consider the Spanish settlements if,. Florida and the Southwest and Far West. Perhaps it is because of this historical significance, or perhaps it is because Spanish art accords with the American desire for color and picturesqueness in decoration, that Iberian art has become popular in this country.
The Spanish pottery now sought by decorators of modern homes divides itself roughly into two classes. One is the peasant type of ware, naive in design, simple in execution. This pottery is the more inexpensive and will harmonize with the peasant ware or furniture of almost any nation. In a room with an unsophisticated air these plates and bowls disclose their folk craft to advantage.
The other type is represented by more highly developed designs, replicas of the work of Moorish and Spanish artists rather than examples of the unstudied art of the people. In this class one finds the early Moorish lustre ware and the later rich reflection of the Renaissance.
In both classes of ware one may now obtain many pieces that add brightness to the American home. To meet the growing tendency toward color in tableware there are now provided breakfast, luncheon and tea sets. For table or mantelpiece there are candlesticks in odd forms with two-branched stems that have come down from Moorish times in Spain. Shapes like an old Roman oil lamp-a tall support with a cup at the top wherein the open oil and wick were once placed, and a shallow cup at the base to catch the dripping oil-are also found in this decorative pottery.
There are, too, many Moorish jars in tall and slender shapes which today are found suitable for holding a few long-stemmed flowers. Or the so-called "chemists' pots" provide a container with more ample space for flowers. These chemists' pots are characteristically Spanish. They are tall cylindrical bits of pottery with sides slightly curving inward and ornamented with bands of designs. Spanish pharmacists used them to hold herbs and lotions long before Americans invented the drug stores.
Some forms of Spanish pottery are easily seen to be derived from the Moorish period, as, for example, the long, thin-necked jars with odd-shaped bodies often with an Arabic inscription as part of their decoration. Many have the blue and gold or green and gold pattern of decoration on their surface. Others in gold and cream color and with geometric patterns suggest Moorish tiles.
Many of the pieces of Spanish art that one may now obtain reflect designs of the fifteenth, sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. One highly decorated plate, obviously Spanish, is in green with a tawny yellow suggestive of the gold found often on Spanish pottery; a flower design is developed, which goes back for its inspiration to the days of the Alhambra. Another pattern on a plate recalls the most modernistic of graphic art, although it is a copy of an early Spanish design. In this the flower motive is drawn in a childlike manner often seen in peasant or country art.
This Mediterranean pottery is still in many cases made in the same district where hundreds of years ago it first was produced. All the varied styles of Spanish ware are known, in fact, to the initiated by the names of the places where the pottery was originally located. The Talavera ware, perhaps the most renowned of Spanish types of pottery, is named from the ancient town in Toledo Province where it was first produced. Later on it was made in many other parts of the peninsula by workmen who carried away the knowledge of the craft, and it reached America 300 years ago, and was the first pottery produced on this continent by Europeans.
If your room has any Spanish or Italian furniture these bits of pottery will make themselves quite at home. For Spanish pottery and Italian furniture exhibit the same affinity that other forms of art of Spain and Italy have always shown toward each other.