For centuries, Grottaglie, a small town in the province of Taranto, has been the site of flourishing artisanal ceramic production closely linked to the richness of the clay typical of this region.
Up until the last century, it was possible to find dozens of ceramic objects in every home in Grottaglie. These were “ceramics for use”, completely unrelated to the ornamental usage of our time.
The art of ceramics in Grottaglie has a very long history, as demonstrated by the magnificent finds displayed in the Ceramics Museum, with its roots stretching back to the Medieval period. Figulino ceramic craft, which was the driving force of life and commerce in Grottaglie for centuries, is represented in the museum by approximately 400 items spanning a time period from the eighth century B.C. to the present day.
The objects on display, which originate from public and private collections, tell the story of a past in which ceramics played a very important role by meeting the needs regarding personal and home hygiene, the storing of food, decoration and the beautification of homes. The Museum is divided into four sections: traditionally used ceramics, archaeological finds, majolica and nativity scenes.
The Ceramics Museum
Housed in Episcopio Castle, in the heart of the village of Grottaglie, the Ceramics Museum exhibits and documents a glorious tradition that can boast of more than 2700 years of history.
The largest section of the ceramics displayed is dedicated to archaeology and includes numerous finds discovered in the excavations in Masseria Vicentino, near Grottaglie. These objects were made between the eighth and fourth centuries B.C., and include globular jars with geometric patterns and painted and engraved patera dishes.
The Museum of Grottaglie also exhibits artefacts originating from the Archaeological Museum of Taranto found in the Benedictine Monastery of Manduria in a dig from 1990. The most beautiful and spectacular examples are the majolica works made from the seventeenth century to the first half of the twentieth century, including plates, jugs for water and wine, ciarla jugs, vases with a double ribbon handle, apothecary jars, albarello medicinal jars, tureens with characteristic knobs modelled into the shape of a human figure, plant and animal elements, flooring tiles and wall tiles.
Devotional ceramics were also historically important, and included plates and votive statues dedicated to the Virgin Many and the Saints, holy water stoops, candle holders and even a memorial tile made in 1907 as the gravestone for a modest burial.
There is also a display featuring various items of everyday use from the seventeenth to mid-twentieth century, such as containers for water, wine, oil, vinegar and for preserving food supplies.
Since 1980, the museum has organised temporary exhibitions of a high standard, including an important annual exhibition of nativity scenes, displaying the most beautiful examples and demonstrating the on-going evolution of the techniques and subjects.
The Local Area
The Ceramics Quarter, “li camenn're” da “camini” (from the Latin term caminus), is a district entirely dedicated to the production of ceramics, with many shops still located in caves. The presence of clay in the region advanced the development of ceramics, which was the main source of the city’s wealth for centuries.
For a long time, the traditional manufacture has been accompanied by increasingly refined items, the result of research that looks to the future without forgetting the past and what made Grottaglie famous throughout the world.An important artistic and educational contribution was made by the State Institute of Art, which is one of the oldest in Italy. Founded in 1887, it has produced many generations of ceramicists.
In addition to the Ceramics Museum, it is also possible to visit Grottaglie’s ancient Episcopio Castle (which houses the museum in its stables), a symbol of the feudal power of the Bishops of Taranto. There is also the Convent of San Francesco di Paola, the Mother Church, the Church of Carmine and the Sanctuary of Madonna di Mutata.
Curator — Camera di Commercio di Taranto
Curator — Matteo R. Dusconi - Segretario Generale Assonautica Italiana