Old And Sold Antiques Auction & Marketplace

Antiques Digest Browse Auctions Appraisal Antiques And Arts News Home

Old And Sold Antiques Digest Article

Collecting Pottery:
Collecting Old Continental Pottery

FRANCE:
Henri Deux Ware, Etc.
Palissy Ware
Rouen
Nevers
Moustiers
Marseilles
Paris And Its Environs
Strasburg
Niderviller
Lille
Rennes
Glazed Pottery Of France

GERMANY:
Stoneware Of Germany
Faience
German And Other Guilds

SWEDEN, DENMARK, SWITZERLAND:
Stockholm, Rorstrand, and Marieberg

HOLLAND:
Delft
Delft: The Old Signs Of The Potters

ITALY:
Majolica And Luca Della Robia
Caffaggiolo
Diruta
Faenza
Pesaro
Castel Durante
Urbino
Gubbio
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.

SPAIN:
Hispano-Moresque Ware
Alcora

Pottery - Hispano-Moresque Ware

( Originally Published Early 1900's )



Without going into details of the various invasions of Spain, the ancient Hispania, by the Arabs and the Moors, it will be sufficient to indicate Mauritania on the north of Africa as the home of the Arab race which conquered parts of Spain and ruled them from A.D. 711 to 1492. In Spanish history, Moor, Arab, and Saracen appear to be used interchangeably. We read that in 756 Abd-el-Rhama, at the head of his Saracens, established the caliphate at Cordova and erected a mosque there decorated with wall-tiles in that Arab style formerly known as " Hispano-Arabesque " ; but since the investigations of the celebrated Frenchman, M. le Baron Davillier, published in 1861, the name he suggested has been generally adopted, and this faience is now termed " Hispano-Moresque," or " Hispano-Moresco." Cordova was the capital of the independent caliphs from Damascus, the home of art in Syria. As soon as the invaders were settled in their new quarters they established potteries, notably here at Cordova, and at Talavera, Seville, Calatayud, and Malaga.

Of the ancient Moorish ware before the fourteenth century very little is known. Fragments of pottery which have been found have arabesques in green and black on a whitish ground, or Arabic letters, or a stag, or a horse with a falcon on his back. These have a decided Persian character, which is what might have been expected, for when, in 756, the Ommiad Caliphs of Damascus were expelled by the descendants of the Prophet's uncle, Abbas, as we have seen, Abd-elRhama, otherwise Abderahman, came to Cordova, and brought the art of the East with him. The caliphate of the Abbasides was established at Bagdad. The Mohammedans in Spain and in Persia had similar traditions with regard to art decoration, though their methods in applying those traditional principles were modified by the materials at their disposal and by the influence of passing events. Hence, though we have but slight knowledge of the pottery of the early period, we can conclude that it bore a close resemblance to the silicious or glassy-glazed pottery which the invaders brought into the country with them.

The influence of passing events can be traced by the fall of the Caliphate in the first instance. When the Saracens invited the Moors in 1031 to help them against the growing power of the newly-founded Christian kingdoms of Castile, Aragon, etc., they responded by coming to Spain and founding a Moorish kingdom in the South of Spain, which replaced the Western Caliphate of Cordova. As if to mark the advent of a new power, metallic-lustred ware made its appearance. This coating or ornamentation with rich iridescent lustres, though Persian in its origin, was a process used successively upon Arabic, Moorish, Hispano-Moresciue, and Siculo-Moresque pottery, and, in the second half of the fifteenth century, upon Italian majolica, which is dealt with in another chapter. Before we consider the early lustres, a glance over later history will be useful.

The second event which had much influence upon HispanoMoresque ware was the union in 123o by Ferdinand III. of the kingdoms of Castile and Leon. The modern kingdom of Portugal (the ancient Lusitania) and the kingdom of Aragon occupied the main part of the peninsula; the Mohammedan power existed still in Granada and Cordova, but it was dwindling. In 1492, a year ever memorable for the discovery of America by Columbus, Ferdinand V. and Isabella saw the Christians overcome the Moors, who continued to live in Spain in large numbers until Philip III., in 1610, ordered the expulsion of all Mohammedans, when some six hundred thousand of them sought new homes in Majorca, Italy, Sicily, and other places. AS the Spanish power increased and as the Moors, a subjugated people, still produced pottery, the designs were modified to meet the wishes of their masters, whose coats-of-arms soon formed part of the decoration.

Referring now to lustred ware gives us an opportunity of citing the remarks of old historians. Edrisi, who wrote a book in 1154, in describing Calatayud says: " Here the goldcoloured pottery is made which is exported to all countries.." Unfortunately there seems to be no other reference to this f abrique until early in the sixteenth century, when, in a deed executed at Calatayud, in 1507, " an inhabitant of the suburb of the Moors at Calatayud and an artificer of lustred golden earthenware, engaged himself with Abdallah Alfoquey of the same locality, to teach him the said industry, in the space of four years and a half from the date of the deed." Can we assume that the manufacture was continuous between the periods indicated by these two records ? I think not.

Calatayud might have been the home of the potter, but the intermittent wars with the Christians must have interfered with his work. Possibly for years at a time he could do nothing in pot or pan-making, which became once more a settled industry in the sixteenth century, in this place as well as at the village of Muel near Saragossa. In 1585 Henrique Cock in his travels refers to Muel as follows: " Almost all the inhabitants of this village are potters, and all the earthenware sold at Saragossa is manufactured in the following manner." And he proceeds with a long description of the various processes.

The next object which demands our attention is the Moorish palace, the Alhambra at Granada, built by Mohammed about 1273, but completely decorated during the succeeding seventyfive years, The azulejos or wall-tiles of this palace are the oldest tiles which exist in Spain and belong to the early fourteenth century. Some bear the inscription, in Cufic characters, There is none strong but God. The earliest azulejos are geometrical patterns made up of small pieces let in the wall, resembling mosaic, such as distinguishes Byzantine archi tecture, from which it was derived. The Alhambra presents a typical example of arabesque ornament in which foliage, flowers, fruit, and tendrils of plants and trees are curiously and elaborately intertwined. This mode of enrichment, from which the figures of man and the animals were excluded by the Mohammedan religion, was applied by the Moors, Arabs, and Saracens to their buildings, to their textile fabrics, and to their pottery. In later times the limitation was abandoned, so that curious, whimsical combinations of plants, birds, animals, and human forms appear in arabesques, which are easily distinguished from the older ones, which were in idea derived from the hieroglyphical ornaments of the monuments of Egypt. As we shall see, the influence of the Italian Renaissance caused other changes,

Resuming the consideration of the pottery manufacture, Baron Charles Davillier furnishes some information regarding its progress in Malaga, from the travels of Ben or Ibn Batutah from Tangiers to Granada during the years 1349 to 1351 : " They make in this city (Malaga) the beautiful golden pottery which is exported to the furthermost countries," the traveller says, and his remarks are almost identical with those of Edrisi on the Calatayud ware. Without discussing the curious coincidence we may note that the celebrated Alhambra vase is attributed, not to Granada, but to Malaga. Other pieces of similar style, all dating from about 1320 to the commencement of the fifteenth century, may be seen in the Cluny Museum at Paris, covered with lustred designs and with blue enamels, altogether striking. The fabrique of Malaga existed during the early years of the sixteenth century, when L. M. Siculo, the chronicler of their Majesties Ferdinand and Isabella, wrote in 1517 that it was " producing very fine vases of faience."

Before that date lustred pottery was made in the kingdom of Valencia, for in 1455 the Venetian oligarchy prohibited the importation of all pottery " except crucibles and majolica of Valencia," and in 1499 Eximenus wrote: "Above all is the beauty of the gold pottery so splendidly painted at Manises, which enamours every one so much that the Pope, and the cardinals, and the princes of the world obtain it by special favour, and are astonished that such excellent and noble works can be made of earth." Testimony almost in the same words is rendered by Fr. Diago in 1613. Indeed, in his " Annals of the Kingdom of Valencia " he appears to transcribe from Eximenus. A number of places, towns and villages, are cited by writers of the fifteenth and early sixteenth century as being concerned in the making of lustred ware; none, however, was so important as Manises, which was near neighbour to some of them, and even Manises had disappeared from Cary's map of Spain published in 1801, though in that year Fischer mentions the copper-coloured, gilded faience made there, and much later Davillier found an hotelkeeper who was also a maker of lustred pottery. The period of the finest Valencian ware extended from 1239-when the Saracens were granted a licence for potting at Xativa-to 1610, when the converts to Christianity alone escaped expulsion from the peninsula.

The fabrique of Manises is credited as the chief producer of azulejos which had shared in the progress of enamelled and lustred faience before the end of the fifteenth century. Though the manufacture continued to the first years of the seventeenth century, a distinctive mark may be traced on all these Spanish works after the conquest of Granada, for a grenade or pomegranate appears in 1492, and never before.

After the expulsion of the Moors the decadence of the faience of Valencia commenced, and in common with other Spanish factories it has continued until today the production of fine ware has ceased, and nothing worthy of a place by the side of the art work of the old master-potters is produced. Azulejos are made at Seville with impressed patterns and coarse metallic lustre, but what a contrast to the old products of Manises ! Fortunately we have some information regarding the manufacture of the old wares, which is not without value, being sent to Count Florida Blanca in 1785, from Manises. The original document was found in the British Museum and published in Riano's "The Industrial Arts of Spain."

"After the pottery is baked, it is varnished with white and blue, the only colours used besides the gold lustre ; the vessels are again baked; if the objects are to be painted with gold colour, this can only be put on the white varnish, after they have gone twice through the oven. The vessels are then painted with the said gold colour and baked a third time, with only dry rosemary for fuel.

" The white varnish used is composed of lead and tin, which are melted together in an oven made on purpose; after these materials are sufficiently melted, they become like earth, and when in this state the mixture is removed and mixed with an equal quantity in weight of sand: fine salt is added to it, it is boiled again, and when cold, pounded into powder. The only sand which can be used is from a cave at Benalguacil, three leagues from Manises. In order that the varnish should be fine, for every arroba, twenty-five pounds of lead, six to twelve ounces of tin must be added, and half a bushel of fine powdered salt : if a coarse kind is required, it is sufficient to add a very small quantity of tin, and three or four cuartos worth of salt, which in this case must be added when the ingredient is ready for varnishing the vessel.

" Five ingredients enter into the composition of the gold colour : copper, which is better the older it is ; silver, as old as possible; sulphur, red ochre, and strong vinegar, which are mixed in the following proportions: of copper three ounces, of red ochre twelve ounces, of silver one peseta (about a shilling), sulphur three ounces, vinegar a quart; three pounds (of twelve ounces) of the earth or scoriae, which is left after this pottery is painted with the gold colour, is added to the other ingredients.

They are mixed in the following manner: a small portion of sulphur in powder is put into a casserole with two small bits of copper, between them a coin of one silver Peseta; the rest of the sulphur and copper is then added to it. When this casserole is ready, it is placed on the fire, and is made to boil until the sulphur is consumed, which is evident when no flame issues from it. The preparation is then taken from the fire, and when cold is pounded very fine ; the red ochre and scoriae are then added to it; it is mixed up by hand and again pounded into powder. The preparation is placed in a basin and mixed with enough water to make a sufficient paste to stick on the sides of the basin ; the mixture is then rubbed on the vessel with a stick; it is therefore indispensable that the water should be added very gradually until the mixture is in the proper state.

" The basin ready prepared must be placed in an oven for six hours. At Manises it is customary to do so when the vessels of common pottery are baked; after this the mixture is scratched off the sides of the basin with some iron instrument; it is then removed from there and broken up into small pieces, which are pounded fine in a hand-mortar with the quantity of vinegar already mentioned, and after having been well ground and pounded together for two hours the mixture is ready for decorating. It is well to observe that the quantity of varnish and gold-coloured mixture which is required for every object can only be ascertained by practice."

These directions show some of the difficulties under which the old potters laboured in order to produce their lustre wares, though seldom do we find lustre upon the tiles (azulejos), even upon those at Granada at the end of the sixteenth and beginning of the seventeenth century, by such masters as Antonio Tenorio, Gaspar Hernandez, and Pedro Tenorio, who were working there during that time. Such tiles, formed of a single piece, were early adopted in the decoration of the walls in the churches, monasteries, and convents as well as in the palaces and homes of the rich ; they still retained the Moorish colours, but the style changed considerably when the Renaissance of the sixteenth century won its way from Italy into Spain, whence the Moors were banished, as I have said, in 1610. The museum at South Kensington has a fine collection of tiles, and in addition it possesses two examples of dishes decorated, like the tiles, without any lustre. As early as 1549 it is recorded that " in this town of Triana (Seville) much excellent pottery of Malaga is made, coloured yellow and white, and of different sorts and kinds. This pottery is made in about fifty houses, and it is exported from here to many localities In the same manner excellent azulejos are made, of great variety of colour and design, and likewise fine reliefs of men and other things. Great quantities of these azulejos are taken to different localities." At the Alcazar, the Moorish palace in Seville, there is a picture in the chapel formed of tiles, and at the church of St. Anne, in Triana, others decorate the sepulchre. The last have an inscription which indicates their Italian origin. It reads : Niculoso Francesco italiano me f ecit, en el agno del mil ccccciii. Other tiles have been found in the palace marked A.V.S.T.A. and A.V.G.W.S.T.A 1577-1578, whilst some are signed " Juan Hernandez 1540."

It would be easy to quote many records praising the white, green, blue, and coloured Talavera ware, not lustred, which supplied the country and was sent into Portugal-and, what is more remarkable, it was exported to India. Then we are informed that perfect imitations of Oriental china were made of pottery which was esteemed also in France, Flanders, and Italy for the perfection of the colouring and brilliancy of the glaze. In the absence of corroboration certainly the "perfect imitations" must be accepted with some reserve. Personally, we are doubtful whether such blue-and-white decoration was successful in competing with delft in Flanders, for though the colour was good, the figures, landscapes, and decoration were marked by the bad taste which became general in Spain in the eighteenth century, when the industry declined. Polychrome decoration was not largely practisedthe palette appears to have been confined to blue, orange, green, and manganese.

The manufactory at Talavera maintained much of its importance until 1720: eight kilns existed then, which gave employment to more than four hundred men, women, and children. But this prosperity soon afterwards ceased. Ten years later poor trade reduced the number of kilns to four, at which very inferior ware was made. At other places the same thing happened.

Several factories at Toledo imitated the best period of Talavera ware during the seventeenth century, but they failed to produce any good work a century later. One factory has left some records-that founded by Ignacio de Velasco, in 1735, in which imitations of Italian wares were produced. When Ignacio died his son George continued the works, from 1738 to 1742. In the latter year they passed into the hands of Francisco Hernandez, who adopted the Japanese style of decoration in 1747, painted in blue on a white ground. Thirteen potteries existed about this time in the neighbourhood of Toledo, but towards the close of the century their productions lost all artistic merit. In Segovia, at first, attempts were made to copy the Bologna faience, then English wares came and were unsuccessfully imitated. The further eighteenth-century history of nearly all of the Spanish potteries may be summed up in a few words-they tried to equal the work of other countries and failed. Even at Madrid, where pottery of different kinds was made during this century, no considerable success was attained. The best was made by Rodriguez and Reato, who, apparently, did not mark their products. Alcora was an exception, for at this time the factory there was particularly active and prosperous.



Bookmark and Share