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Collecting Old Continental Pottery
Henri Deux Ware, Etc.
Paris And Its Environs
Glazed Pottery Of France
Stoneware Of Germany
German And Other Guilds
SWEDEN, DENMARK, SWITZERLAND:
Stockholm, Rorstrand, and Marieberg
Delft: The Old Signs Of The Potters
Majolica And Luca Della Robia
Naples, Rimini, Monte Feltro, And Forli
Siena, Monte Lupo, And Pisa
Fabriano, Viterbo, Rome
Venice, Treviso, Bassano, Milan, Etc.
PERSIA AND DAMASCUS:
Persia And Damascus
Persian And Other Tiles
Rhodes, Asiatic Turkey, Etc.
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
Diruta, near Perugia, was one of the first Italian towns to set up a fabrique for making majolica, though the earliest ware appears to have been tin-enamelled terra cotta. According to Lazari, a frieze was executed, in 1461, for the church of St. Bernardino, by Antonio de Duccio, one of the pupils of Luca della Robbia. From Perugia the process of applying tin-enamel to terra cotta spread to Diruta, where in the sixteenth century it advanced to the perfection of coloured majolica which is distinguished by a great elegance of style and design, and by a charming nacreous lustre. The earliest dated piece, fatta in Deruta, 1535, was in the Foun taine Collection. A plate is thus described: " Painted in blue grisaille, in parts touched or grounded with orange; composition, the Nativity or ` Persepio,' after a design or picture by Pietro Perugino. Majolica of Diruta, near Perugia. Circa 1520-30. Diameter 12 in." That famous expert, J. C. Robinson, wrote this description for the catalogue of the exhibition in the museum at South Kensington, June 1862.
Was it a monk or an order of monks who made that other Diruta ware distinguished by its brassy, golden lustre, its dull enamel, and its poor drawing, with outlines in brown or blue ? A number of pieces signed El Frata belong to this class, and they have been assigned to Diruta because they resemble a lustred piece, dated 1541, which was marked El Frate in Deruta pt., and some unlustred pieces from the same fabrique with inscriptions such as : i Deruta il Frate fiensi, 1545; and 1545 in Deruta Frate fecit. Assuming these pieces were the work of the brotherhood, we may learn to recognise them by the rude, poor drawing and by the inferiority of the colours. They suffer by contrast with the superior work of the best period, which is often marked with the letter C with a paraph-see the Marks. Similar products of Diruta show almost always upon the base a network of fillets, traced either in blue or in lustre and blue. This network is recognised as one of the most distinctive and characteristic signs of the finest ware, which vies with that of Pesaro and Gubbio, ex cepting in the ruby lustre, which is pale and faint. On the other hand, the " madreperla " lustre is scarcely excelled by that of Pesaro, to which fabrique the earlier and more important productions are attributed on evidence which is scarcely convincing. That lustre was a golden pigment of peculiarly pearly effect.
" It is extremely difficult," says Mr. Fortnum in his handbook on " Maiolica," " to decide with any degree of certainty as to whether some individual early specimens of the lustred ware, alluded to, be of Pesaro, of Gubbio, or of Diruta workmanship. We have little hesitation in assigning the dish in the woodcut to Diruta; the 'Dance of Cupids is after Marc Antonio. The similarity of the process necessary to such productions entails a corresponding similarity of result, but we notice a somewhat coarser grounding, a golden reflet of a brassy character, a ruby when it (rarely) occurs of a pale dull quality, looser outlines of a colder and heavier blue, and, in the pieces not lustred the same tones of colour, a dark blue approaching to that of Caffaggiolo in depth, but wanting in brilliancy, the use of a bright yellow to heighten the figures in grotesques, etc., in imitation of the golden lustre, and a thin green."
Having read this after coming to my own conclusions as set out earlier, the analogy between the opinions is sufficiently striking, though I had failed to comment on the coarse, opaque ground, creamy in colour, and on the deep dull blue. Further, it may be noted that the flesh is usually shaded in blue.
Some of the pieces of Diruta and other Italian ware, such as the dishes intended for wall-decoration piatti da pompa -were over 15 inches in diameter, and a projecting rim on the base of each was invariably pierced with two holes to receive a cord by which it could be suspended. The smaller dishes, bacini or bacili, saucer-shaped plates, frequently have similar holes, which furnish no clue as to origin. These early decorative pieces are covered at the base by a coarse yellow glaze; the upper surface was painted with white slip, upon which the coloured ornament was applied sometimes in conjunction with the scratched designs, sgrafiliti, which in Italy were brought to a high degree of perfection, though the Diruta ware is more distinguished for ornament in both high and low relief, arabesque scrollwork, with masks, hippocampi, etc. Such raised arabesques were frequently ornamented with lustre, shaded with blue.
Exact reproductions of the sixteenth-century majolica are still made in Italy. In Diruta, in 1771, Gregorio Caselli was the proprietor of a fabrique in which lustred majolica fina was manufactured.