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Collecting Pottery:
Collecting Old Continental Pottery

Henri Deux Ware, Etc.
Palissy Ware
Paris And Its Environs
Glazed Pottery Of France

Stoneware Of Germany
German And Other Guilds

Stockholm, Rorstrand, and Marieberg

Delft: The Old Signs Of The Potters

Majolica And Luca Della Robia
Castel Durante
Naples, Rimini, Monte Feltro, And Forli
Siena, Monte Lupo, And Pisa
Fabriano, Viterbo, Rome
Venice, Treviso, Bassano, Milan, Etc.

Persia And Damascus
Persian And Other Tiles
Rhodes, Asiatic Turkey, Etc.

Hispano-Moresque Ware

Majolica And Luca Della Robbia

( Originally Published Early 1900's )

When the Renaissance, the revival of letters and of art, began in Italy during the fourteenth century, and when, during the next two centuries, it gradually spread over Western Europe, it transformed art, science, philosophy, and influenced religion, politics, and manners. The fall of Constantinople in 1453 sent many Greek scholars westwards, where the Medici, Leo X., the Pope, and other princely patrons received them with open arms. Under these protectors art reached its golden age, and pottery shared in the triumph. Majolica decorated by painters of the sixteenth century was worthy of its place in ducal palaces; it scintillates today amidst the treasures of museums and in the cabinets of rich collectors.

Who first made enamelled faience in Italy, and who invented the metallic lustre? History is dumb on both points. Apparently the use of a metallic lustre was practised prior to the introduction of the tin enamel which produced that wonderful opaque white glaze under which the reddish earthen body was concealed, and upon which the superb decoration in colours and lustre was applied. The early wares from the twelfth century onwards had a coarse body which was covered with white slip and formed the class known as mezzo-majolica, which was painted and sometimes lustred. Other decoration was scratched, and wares thus treated are known as graffiti or sgraffiti, from the Italian grafflare or sgraffiare, which means to scratch. The process is treated in the Introduction. It shared in the general advance of ceramic art, being effectively combined with mouldings and figures.

The true majolica, tin-glazed, painted by artists whose names are given in the chapters following, has become almost priceless. On July 3, 1912, a Gubbio dish, 14 1/2 inches in diameter, the work of Maestro Giorgio, signed with his initials, M.G., decorated in lustred dark blue, yellow, and ruby, with a shield-of-arms in the sunk centre in lustred brown on the well, whilst on the rim a bold design of arabesque foliage was lustred in brown, green, and ruby, on a shaded blue ground, realised the enormous sum of 2,700 guineas. That beautiful dish appears amongst the illustrations, and in the sale prices the cost of every piece of faience sold from the Taylor Collection-a very rich one, by the way-is given. What beautiful lustre painting! I handled this lovely dish, and was present at Christie's when it was sold. What a pity it was that the secret of the process was lost about 1540 !

In considering the methods employed to give the metallic lustres upon majolica, the ruby lustre must be ruled out, for although about 1860 the process was rediscovered, the modern ware decorated with it has but few of the Maestro's fine decorative qualities. Much attention has been devoted to lustres and their production. Some say gold is used to produce gold lustre, but the general opinion is it is due to the presence of copper. M. Carrand, the author of a " History of Hispar.o-Moresque Faience," states that copper only was employed to give the red copper lustre, and that silver was added to the copper to diminish the intensity of the colour, to make it lighter and softer : " It was by a mixture of these two metals, in different proportions, that these tones so rich and so varied were attained," from the most pronounced red copper to the different shades of nacreous lustre, which was the " madreperla " lustre of mezzo-majolica, and its chief glory. As mother-of-pearl reflects prismatic colours which vary in effect with every angle, so does this lustre, which was often used to heighten the effect of the colours, over which it was applied and fixed by a special firing. Careful examination will reveal the overlying lustre, and it will also lead to the conclusion that the work of the painter was supplemented by another artist who applied the lustre.

In passing to a short historical survey of the chief centres of the majolica manufactured from the period of the improvement of the stanniferous or tin enamel by Luca della Robbia, about 1438, it is necessary to qualify the statement regarding Maestro Giorgio's ruby lustre on Gubbio ware by the remark that his ruby lustre is found on other Italian majolica-Pesaro, Diruta, Urbino, Castel Durante, for example, especially the two first. We do not know whether Maestro Giorgio purchased these wares for further decoration with his lustres, or whether he sold his lustre pigments to those factories, but we find his own pieces dated from 1518 to 1541, and although he lived till 1552 he kept secret the composition of his special pigment, whose use was almost limited to the period given.

Luca della Robbia and Tin Enamel

This famous artist, born in Florence in 1400, spent some years in trying to improve the application of enamel as a protective covering for the surface of terra-cotta figures and ornament. We are told that after many experiments he resolved to apply an enamel made of tin, copper, antimony, and other minerals, and to fix it by firing in a kiln. His success was complete, not only in the application of the enamel, but in the coloration, by which he secured effects impossible with white enamel alone. His influence upon ceramic art was enormous, for, when he died, in 1481, tin enamel was in constant use in various Italian factories, and the traditions of the great artist passed to his nephew Andrea, the companion of his labours and the partner of his secrets. The principal character of his works consisted in the grand simplicity of composition, in the nobility and elegance of the attitudes of his figures, and in the sobriety of his ornament. In these respects he differed from Andrea, whose style was less elevated, and whose decoration, especially in the frames of his plaques, was far more ornate; yet when he adopted the severer forms it is very difficult to distinguish his work from that of his uncle, whose first important piece bears the date 1438. Obviously pieces dated 1482, 1486, 1487, 1489, and 1491, belong to the period of Andrea, who died in 1528.

He left three sons whom he had trained in his work. They continued to produce a quantity of tin-enamelled wares which bore the impress of the factory, although they fell below the standard of their predecessors in style and character, being far less refined and accurate. Then, too, the borders of flowers in Luca's work, which Andrea had replaced by fruit, were less simple; the tin glaze-thin, almost transparent, sometimes absent from the flesh in the early masterpiecesbecame heavier and thicker. One son, Giovanni, continued to live at Florence; another, Luca the younger, established himself at Rome; whilst the third, Girolamo, came to France, where in 1528 he commenced the production of plaques for the Chateau of Madrid, which was completed before his death, about 1567. Unfortunately the fine plaques were destroyed in the Revolution of 1792. Della Robbia ware was made by other artists during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, in Perugia, Pisa, and other towns. The modern copies, notably those made at Bologna about 1870, are amongst the wares which are frequently imposed upon the unsuspecting as genuine specimens of the art of Luca and Andrea della Robbia.

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