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History Of Pottery And Porcelain:
Pottery And Porcelain Defined
History Of Pottery
Forms Employed By The Italians
Holland - Delft
Introduction To Porcelain
Oriental Porcelain China
Pottery And Porcelain
Clocks And Watches
( Originally Published Late 1800's )
The first instance in which pottery attaches itself to a recognized school of art occurs in Italy. In merit and value it improves more upon this soil, where, treated by eminent hands, it became a vehicle of artistic expression, which has given it a value not inferior to canvases and frescos of the same period. While these latter are less available to foreign seekers, the beautiful vessels of pottery, with their decorations, as bright and fresh as when they first left the workman's hands, have found lodgment and appreciation in galleries distant from their native soil.
At present the Majolica ware-most celebrated of the Italian work-is only to be procured at the sales of great and choice collections, where works of art occupy the principal place. At the sale of Prince Napoleon's collection, which took place May 9th, 1872, several genuine pieces of this ware were offered, which commanded prices far beyond the reach of ordinary purchasers. I append a short list of some of the specimens ; the exact price which they brought I am unable to state.
Catalogue, Number 241. A fine, pilgrim bottle, with satyr's-head handles, and the subject of David and Goliath on one side, and the Philistines attacking the Israelites on the other; attributed to Alfonso Patanazzi. Circa, 1560.
Catalogue, Number 247. A fine bowl, on foot, with snake handles; in the inside Fabius ordering the golden vases of the Samnite ambassadors to be thrown into the lake of Thrasimene ; the outside and foot covered with landscape and buildings in very rich colors; by Orazio Fontana. Circa, 1550,
Catalogue, Number 251.-A plate, with sunk centre, and the descent of Orpheus into Hell; very rich colors, with metallic lustre. Inscribed on the back, "Fra Xanto A de Rovigo. Urbino, 1532."
The existence of a majolica factory at Caffagiolio has been somewhat doubted by various authorities, but these doubts were dispelled by the discovery upon the ware itself of absolute testimony which placed the fact beyond question. One example of this ware we find in Prince Napoleon's collection.
Catalogue, Number 256.-A fine large dish with raised centre, on which is the Salviati coat-of-arms: argent a bandes bretelles de gueules ecartele d'or a trois monts d'azur; surrounded by a border of foliage in various colors; the border of the dish has ornaments in blue, on white ground, and scrolls with motto, "Semper vivat ;" on the back a monogram, and the words " In Cafagibollo. Circa, 1560."
This will discover at once to the critical eye a new value, and to the uninitiated, the immediate consequence of marks and monograms, which, when authentic, affect pottery and porcelain exactly in the same ratio as they would canvas, panel, or fresco.
I have ventured upon these brief introductory words as a preparation to the most important period of the history of pottery-making, where under new treatment and Christian inspiration it undergoes a complete revolution, and presents itself in fit company with Italian masterpieces in other departments of art.
As early as the ninth century the Saracens had colonized in Sicily and Apulia, and they were expert potters. When expelled from the Spanish dependencies, they sought refuge in the Papal States. Italy had thus twice thrust upon her the opportunity of forming a practical acquaintance with the potter's art, but we have no substantial evidence of her real acceptance until two centuries after the introduction of the Moorish work-six hundred years after the arrival of the Saracens, so we take up the history where we may follow it with consecutive precision.
How the art of pottery-making was introduced into Italy is a question. That it came by the Moors there is no doubt; but vagarious as were their movements, there seems no certainty of its direct import.
An Italian antiquary of distinction, Passeri by name, claims the discovery and introduction of the ware for Pesaro. His claim is not well established, and the fact that every Latin country asserts the same individual distinction, adds to the doubt.
Still another and more valuable testimony is the fact that the first wares of Italy exhibited the splendid metallic lustre which identifies the Moorish work. This alone would seem to bespeak its Moorish extraction. The records of history itself almost decide the question.
In the year A. D. 1113 the Crusader galleys departed from Pisa on their errand of deliverance. After various vexatious delays and mishaps, and a sanguine but victorious struggle at Ivica, they succeeded in reaching the little Island of Majorca, where the encroaching Moors had held in long and toilsome bondage their Christian brothers. Here the scenes of their former struggle were renewed, and the prisoners of the infidels released. Their work finished, the triumphant galleys returned to Pisa, laden with valuables and the products of art of their vanquished enemy. Probably not least among these were the tiles and plates which were most extensively produced at Majorca, and the poor prisoners who held the secret of their making. In the summer of the year 1115, the galleys reached their native port.
That Majorca ware had even then become famous is evidently a fact, and Mr. Dawson Turner, writing from Pisa in the year 1825, says:
"After having returned to the conservatory the keys of the Campo Santo, he was kind enough to show me several specimens of plates from Majorca, imbedded in the walls of sundry churches in the city, to which they form singular ornaments. It was a custom at Pisa, with the warriors returning from the crusades, and stopping at Majorca, to bring home this peculiar earthenware, by way at once of testimony and trophy.
"They are accordingly only to be found in the oldest buildings in the style that we in England would call Norman. In San Sisto and Sta Apollonica they are on the west front, and a row of them is also to be seen running along the sides under the cornice. In San Francisco are some near the top of the Campanile, which is very lofty. I afterwards observed others in the walls of two churches of about the some date at Pavai.
Most of these plates were of a bright green, decorated with the customary Moorish designs. Only four of the original plates remain in the walls of San Sisto, all the rest having been spirited away, and rudely painted plaster substituted in their places. On page 16 of Mr. Marryatt's admirable work, illustrations are given of these four. For a long time these precious plates remained venerated by the Italians as trophies of the success of the crusades and extermination of the infidels from Christian borders.
Passeri alone records the art of pottery-making in Italy as early as the thirteenth century. He affixes the date 1492 to the introduction of Majolica ware, and states the place of introduction- Pesaro, but we will glance at another portion of Italy.
Every art reverts to its presiding genius. Some one endowed with the attributes of success has carried it from the footstool to the throne, where one becomes the patron master, and the other the pattern which we may follow and emulate.
The fifteenth century was destined to reveal the man and his works which should ever after remain the symbols of Italian success. Under the warm, tropic sun of Italy, every art grew in magnitude, beauty, and value. Favored by a people given to these employments, and encouraged by the patronage of over wealthy churches and noblemen, the art of pottery-making could not long remain in the one position given it by the less enlight ened Moors; it must be advanced and elevated. Demand always is met by some answer; if not immediate, then eventually; and in the person of Luca della Robbia we find the artist who first felt the call of Italy for greater eminence in the new industry, where art and utility formed an alliance at once powerful and happy.
Luca della Robbia was born in the city of Florence in the year 1400. Following successively the careers of a goldsmith and sculptor, in the latter of which he at tained extraordinary success, we find him at last proposing to himself the question of producing his works in baked clay, covered with a glazing, as offering a substance in the workman's hands more pliant and quite as durable as the marble itself. His first discovery was the use of stanniferous enamel, the hardest glaze then in use, and his first production was a bas-relief of the Resurrection, which he finished about the year 1438, and which was placed above the bronze doors of the Duomo, which were also of his design.
This first production was in white enamel, except the groundwork of blue tint. His next step was the applica tion of color. Says M. H. Barbet de Jouey : "Luca was right when he animated enamelled sculpture with color; but he was too prodigal of it: the huge masses of Florentine architecture are particularly severe and stiff, and the alternate black and white layers of stone would produce the effect of mourning draperies if the monuments of the middle ages had not been enlivened by mosaics... On the grand facade of Or San Michele he (Luca) placed large medallions, which shine out with subdued brilliancy from the walls, without framework or cornice, affording as much pleasure to the eye as a tuft of flowers on a neglected ruin."
Luca employed, and was succeeded in his work after his death, which took place in 1481, by several relatives of the same family name, and their work was similar, but neither so effective nor so excellent. An example of Della Robbia ware, in the collection of the late Mrs. W. C. Prime. The figures in this specimen are of ivory white, upon a ground of delicately tinted blue; the entire piece is about sixteen inches in height, and of proportionate width.
Reverting again to Pesaro we find the town still engaged in the manufacture of Mezza-Majorca, but laboring under the disadvantageous circumstances of Moorish influences, and therefore wanting in delicacy and beauty.
Under the patronage of the houses of Maltesta, Sforza, and Urbino, it still continued, its main beauty being the "mother pearl" lustre, which has never been surpassed.