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History Of Pottery And Porcelain:
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Forms Employed By The Italians
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Introduction To Porcelain
Oriental Porcelain China
European Porcelain
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Italian Porcelain
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Majolica Ware - Forms Employed By The Italians

( Originally Published Late 1800's )



In existing specimens of the Majolica ware we find less elaborateness of form, less elegance, than we might be led to expect in the presence of such eminently excellent decoration. While the Italians were not insensible to outside influences, they cautiously accepted what they thought best, but preferred to invest their productions with their own imagery, and place upon them, if possible, the recognizable impress of their own reviving genius. It is not impossible that their intense dislike for the Moors and their traditions led them to abandon Moorish forms at a period soon after the introduction of their work. Luca della Robbia's work was a bold step toward the naturalization of the art of pottery-making in Italy. There was no trace of the "infidel" work here, but a true and perfect identification with the country which stood at the head and front of the Romish church; accepting her characters and symbols as the right subjects for expression and study. The forms employed by the Italians were as distinct and characteristic as possible, and they were few. Vases, ewers, and plates make up nearly the whole catalogue, and the patterns are few by which the art could be possibly degraded to the general menial services of the household or the workshop. In later years we find it gradually descending to this inferior but practical position. This, however, after the last spark of eminent artistic merit had been extinguished.

One of the few forms borrowed from the ancients was the pilgrim bottle, seemingly a great favorite among all ages and nations. This, as its name implies, was a vessel for the carriage of liquids, being flattened at the sides for greater convenience. The ancients carried them slung about the neck by a strap, but those of Italian production were evidently intended for ornament, as many of them are decorated with the most exquisite arabesques, and the designs of Raffaelle. In Prince Napoleon's recent sale, mentioned in the introduction to this chapter, there were two of these pilgrim bottles. The modern copies, though very beautiful, are not of great value. Several of these have been brought to this country, and found very ready acceptance.

A favorite manner of relievo decoration and outline among the Italians was the grotesque. A ewer in the possession of the Baron de Rothschild is exceedingly rich in this character. An illustration of this ewer can be found in Mr. Chaffers' " Chefs d'Oeuvre of the Industrial Arts,". Among the curious and very interesting Majolica productions are the amatorii, or love plates. These generally bore the portraits of the ladies to whom they were presented, with inscriptions calculated to express the affection of the donor.

"On one we find a heart, transfixed with a sword and an arrow, over a burning flame, bedewed by tears falling from two eyes above."

"One is mentioned by Passeri, signed by Maestro Giorgio-a female head, having beneath DANIELLA DIVA, and above, a wounded heart, with Oime.

Very frequently these ameatorii were used as moral souvenirs, both the inscription and decoration being of a moral instead of affectionate character. One is mentioned as having upon it a picture of a lady teaching a little child to read, and the inscription : Virtus in atione consiste.

The marriage services of Majolica, then exceedingly popular, were made up of pieces similar in character to those just mentioned. A curious little service for the use of invalids consisted of five pieces, compactly put together, and thus forming a neat little ornament. Taken apart, it furnished- 1. a soup basin; 2. a plate; 3. a Cup; 4. a saltcellar; and 5. a cover. These were set upon a little table, after use restored to their original places.

The pottery work of Italy occupies the largest space in all the extant authorities upon the subject of ceramics. It is unnecessary here to enter into a description so succinct and exhaustive. Abler pens will accomplish that, work when amid the vast population of our country will be found enough of the interested element to guarantee so extended a labor. Europe has long and faithfully engaged herself in the advancement of all the arts, and her literature upon the subject of fictile wares, although comparatively not extensive, is thorough and profound, complete and excellent, whether we consider it in a literary light or as an authority. In our first steps we can scarcely expect to reach so far: M. Jacquemart, in his "Merveilles de la Ceramique," gives a list of the celebrated artists engaged upon the Majolica work. Mr. Marryatt's book upon "Pottery and Porcelain " introduces all the Italian terms employed to distinguish their wares. It is scarcely the province of this book to venture so far when we cannot find at present in our country examples to illustrate or verify the statements and make them of greater interest and value. In decoration lies the chief interest arid importance of the early Italian pottery.

The Italian wares of greatest importance and value are those of Gubbio, Urbino, Pesaro, and Caffaggiolo. The two former of these derive their value from the fact that they bear the work of two great artists-Maestro Giorgio Andreoli at Gubbio, and Raffaelle at Urbino; and they differ from each other in that, while the Gubbio ware maintains the metallic lustre, the productions of Urbino do not-at least it is not so general. It is not generally considered that all the decoration of the Gubbio ware was executed by the hand of Maestro Giorgio, but that other artists were employed to carry forward his designs and give to them the tints peculiar to all his productions, the bright ruby red lustre being almost infallible evidence of his work. His works are generally signed at the back in the ruby or gold lustre with the initials M. G., very clumsily executed with the brush.

The great master who conveyed to the Urbino wares the designs of Raffaelle was Francesco Xanto Avelli. All his works are signed in initial, or with the abbreviated name, and upon some of them is to be found the ruby red lustre, executed, according to the best authorities, at the workshop of Maestro Giorgio, Avelli not being acquainted with the art.

Of Caffaggiolo mention has been previously made, but these three factories are mentioned here as representing the important localities where Italian pottery was pro duced. Specimens of these being rarest and most eagerly sought for, the collector must bear in mind that it is the artist, and not form or composition, that regulates the value of Italian pottery.



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