Guide to the collections

Far eastern ceramics
The section dedicated to Far Eastern ceramics is connected to the exhibition spaces on the ground floor, reflecting human creativity of 'other' cultures (Pre-Columbian, Classical civilization, the ancient Near East, the Islamic world). Ceramics on display are representative of the major ceramic production centres of east Asia, mainstays of the history of the international porcelain trade from the times of Marco Polo to those of the East India Company, through which Europe knew, appreciated and imitated the technical and artistic brilliance of Chinese, Japanese and Southeast Asian potters. An exceptional eighteenth century gilded and painted bronze statue, depicting Duo Wen Tianwang (‘He who hears everything’), Heavenly King of the North, introduces the exhibition.

The statue portrays one of the four Celestial Kings divinities placed inside the Chinese Buddhist temples to protect the main altar. He is Duo Wen Tianwan he who hears everything, the Chinese version.

The “céladon” covered with grey-green glaze, originated in Southern China where they were exclusively produced until the 10th century, were known in China as “Yue” ceramics.

Here are painted the supernatural group of the "8 immortals" who are the protagonist of Taoist legend.These man are crossing the ocean.
The bowl is dated during the Quialong Emperor (1736-1795)

Starting from the 17th century, thanks to the rebirth of the Jingdezhen kilns, the monochrome porcelain have represented a noteworthy Chinese production. The yellow is symbol of the Imperial family

The statue represents Guanyin (“she who hears” the voices from the world) the Buddhist divinity of the Mercy who holds on a vase containing ambrosia the balm alleviating all the wounds and a fly-swatter to throw out the Evil

This Korean style big vase used to contain alcoholic beverages is part of the stoneware vessels production characterized by the sober and undecorated shapes as it wants archaic ceramic tradition.

The japanese dish is decorated in the “Shoki Imari” style inspired from the Chinese “blue and white” patterns producted by Arita kilns, devoted to the trade with the Portuguese and Dutch merchants

The vase with is decorated with greeting motives on a “brocade” style background. The Imari “golden brocade” style (Imari kinrade) is the best known Japanese porcelain typology in the Western world

These rich and refined porcelains belonging to the “Bencharong” and “Lai Nam Thong” kinds were exclusively used by the Thai royal family. They are also known as “sino-thai ceramics”

The precolumbian ceramics gallery
The MIC has a rich collection, partly on display and partly in storage, of the testimonies of numerous pre-Columbian civilizations. These are mostly ceramics, with a fairly significant presence of other materials (fabrics, metalwork, stone, wood and shell artifacts). The pieces in the collection come from nine of the seventeen areas into which the American continent is divided on archaeological and cultural grounds. Many of these are displayed in seven cases divided by area, plus a case study display and two drawers. The displays are supplemented by panels and captions located on the sides of the windows and over the drawers, which explore specific cultural elements with the aid of drawings, short texts and iconographic reproductions. Visitors are thus helped to explore the region’s plants, animals, activities, deities, rituals, symbols, open and hidden meanings, decorative elements and techniques. The pre-Columbian people lived in a fascinating natural environment which stimulated their way of thinking and creativity in material, social and spiritual ways. The first showcase displays sculpture and painting of non-ceramic materials and weaving. Noteworthy are a remarkable Inca wooden vase decorated with colours, an Incan interwoven head with Pachamama (Mother Earth), the head of a wooden Chancay mummy mask (fardo), a trumpet from Peru made from a shell and a zoomorphic millstone for corn from Costa Rica. With the second showcase we enter the civilizations of central Mesoamerica (Mexico and Guatemala). The oldest cultures are represented by figurines and vases, some bottle-shaped dating from the 13th century BC to the 4th century AD. These give way to successive productions of the classical period with the typical figurative ceramics and other shapes belonging to Teotihuacan, Zapotec, Huastech, Veracruz and Maya, from the 4th to 10th centuries. Complete the overview ceramics of the Mixtec and Aztec Postclassical civilizations (10th-16th centuries) with characteristic tripod vessels, cups and figurines.   The third showcase is still dedicated to Mesoamerican area, but to its more peripheral cultures. These include the rich production of Western Mexico (Chupicuaro, Nayarit, Colima, Jalisco, with realistic figures), El Salvador, Nicaragua and the perfect forms of northern Costa Rica, spanning a period from the third to the sixteenth century. Also displayed here is the Casas Grandes polychrome production (11th-14th centuries) which belong culturally to the Western Desert of the United States. The fourth showcase displays ceramics from less well-known areas, with a panoramic view stretching from the sixth to the sixteenth centuries. Cultures included are: the Amazon, with characteristic elements of the regional culture and Marajoara Tapajoara (figurines, urns covers and thongs), the Caribbean, with a Valencia figurine and a Taino ocarina, the Southern Andes, with vessels, fragments and spindle whorls from Bolivia, northwestern Argentina and Chile, and the Pampas, with a few Guarani fragments. The fifth and sixth showcases are dedicated to Peru with its mosaic of civilizations producing vascular and figurative ceramics with high-expressiveness and colouring. Included are artifacts of the Chavin, Paracas, Viru, Vicus, Recuay, Nasca, Mochica, Wari and post-Wari, Sican, Cajamarca, Chancay, Chimu and Inca cultures. These cover almost all Peruvian archaeological periods, from the most ancient to the European Conquest, through a period that extends from the sixth century BC to the 16th century AD. Characteristic are wares with stirrup-shaped necks, double spouts with handle, portrait and whistling vases, pictorial or sculptural depictions, naturalistic or stylised.   The last two showcases, the seventh and eighth, exhibit ceramics from intermediate areas. These include figurines, ocarinas, characteristic tripod vases and incense burners from Costa Rica and polychrome ceramics with representations of fishes from Panama. Then follow artifacts from Venezuela, Colombia and Ecuador including figurines with arms outstretched, polychrome ceramics with tripods and pedestals with positive and negative decoration; covering periods between the 21st century BC (Valdivia, Ecuador) and the 16th century AD. At the end of the itinerary, two drawers contain Peruvian textiles, both intact and in fragments. Drawer A contains a chronological subdivision of artifacts (Paracas, Nazca, Ica-Pachacamac, Chancay Tricolor and Chancay, Ica-Chincha, Chimu and Inca, from the 4th century BC to the 16th century AD. Drawer B emphasizes topics related to textile technology and pre-Columbian clothing; visitors can see multicolored fabrics - painted and embroidered, one headgear, certain types of clothes and belts.  

Two dignitaries are lifting a bowl containing a reddish substance, separated by a vessel containing a bubbling liquid. This scene show a rite of religious offering through the intake of hallucinogens

Six pregnant women surrounding a woman in labour assisted by three male characters, one of which facilitates the delivery while the other two prepare and administer a narcotic to soothe the pain.

Possible representation of Cihuacoatl mother goddess or the deity of women who die in childbirth.

The top bears the double motif of a Mythical Nasca creature with various appendices and human heads.

Possibly linked to the Mother-Earth cult. The baby's head and the arms of an assistant are just visible, while on the back vertebrae can be discerned.

Container in the shape of head of a dignitary. The painting divides the face in three vertical bands, is finely executed with the proud expression typical of Moche.

The decoration shows foxes and frogs. The fox was believed to be a mythological animal associated with the lunar cult, while the frogs symbolize the fertility of the harvest.

It is probably the representation of a pregnant woman with direct reference to the cult of the fertility of man and earth.

Millstones were used to grind corn; the most elaborate are believed to be intended for ritual use.

At the top is depicted the Inca emperor on a sedan chair, surrounded by carriers and warriors, while other characters hold a long chain. For ritual use.

Ceramics from the Classical World
This display showcases ceramics from the Mediterranean basin from the Bronze Age to Roman times. Noteworthy are: Greek Attic pottery, Italic area with wares from Magna Graecia, the Etruscan bucchero and black-figured ceramics and Roman pottery tableware and large containers for trade.   The extensive supporting educational material provides visitors with an insight into the life, culture and civilization of the time, with topics related to techniques (decoration and production), commerce and the dissemination of materials around the Mediterranean through a trade map that highlights the main sea routes.  Ceramics are important in dating archeological sites and also tell of the customs and traditions of the time. The role of ceramics in daily life is also explored (the banquet, the table, the kitchen, work activities, accompanied by a display of finely decorated oil lamps, considered at the time a precious commodity).   The itinerary allows the visitor to follow the chronological and geographical development of ceramics. From the Greek area is displayed Aegean, geometric and Italic-geometric, Corinthian and Etrusco-Corinthian, eastern-Greek and Attic pottery.  Italic areas are represented by Apulian, Magna Grecian (with figures, overpainted and black-painted pottery). Etruscan production is represented by bucchero, and black-figured painted ceramics.   Noteworthy is Attic pottery, whose production began around the seventh century BC, first with decoration of black figures, replaced by about 530 BC by the red-figure technique, a real revolution for the time, which gave Athens artistic prestige and dominance of the rich western export market. Among the most common forms are craters, hydrias (hydria), drinking cups (kylix), ointments pots (lekythos) and common bell shaped two-handled vases.   Important and well represented is the Etruscan bucchero earthenware, a production dating from the seventh century BC from the area of ​​Cerveteri in Latium. This pottery was produced with refined modelling and firing techniques and primarily made for symposia and for used by the aristocracy. Elites appreciated its preciousness, with thin walls specific to southern Etruria, shiny surfaces and shapes recalling metalwork.  

In the 700 BC Corinth developed an eastern-influenced style with monsters, exotic animals and ornamental plant motifs (rosettes and palmettes) which decorated small vessels for perfumes and ointments.

In ambito greco si distinse la produzione attica, dapprima “a figure nere” (secc. VII-VI a.C.), poi “a figure rosse” (secc. VI-V a.C.).

This characteristic pouring vessel (epichysis) has a cylindrical body, slender neck with narrow oblique spout and curvy flat handle.

Ceramics of the ancient Near East
The display of the ancient Near East is of great interest because it covers a large geographic area that has witnessed some of the most important phases of human history, from the Neolithic revolution to the beginning of the urbanization process and the introduction of writing. Several of the oldest cultures are documented through fragments and a number of mostly complete pieces. Ceramics from Iraq cover a period of over 5,000 years, from the Neolithic cultures of the sixth millennium to the Parthian period (3rd BC -3rd centuries AD), including some fragments from the site of Baghouz in north-eastern Syria, culturally near to Northern Iraq.  Anatolian ceramics range from the Late Chalcolithic (second half of the fourth millennium BC) to the Phrygian period (8th-7th centuries BC). Our Iranian ceramics represent limited periods but are of great importance; in addition to fragments from north-eastern Late Chalcolithic Iran, noteworthy are two beautiful Iron Age zoomorphic vases, and glazed bricks of the Achaemenid period from the palace of Darius I at Susa. Completing the Museum’s holdings are two collections which are currently not on display which are dedicated to Palestine and Egypt. Palestine is represented by ceramics dating from the Bronze Age and Roman times, given by the Palestinian Department of Antiquities in the late 1920s. Egypt is represented by eight vases and a great number of sherds, both made of earthenware and glazed faience. For the most part these vases date back to the Predynastic Epoch; the ceramic sherds are parts of Copt Epoch vases and Hellenic earthenware from Naukratis and from the area of Memphis. The numerous glazed faience sherds belong to a different epoch and they are part of both containers and different objects such as “ushabti”, inlay works, amulets and so on.

It is probably a water jug, a type known since the beginning of the Imperial period. The ceramic production of the Akkadian period (2350-2180 BC) includes various forms of domestic utilitarian pottery

They are funerary wares, referring to the god Teshub, identified by the bull that vomits water, the giver of life.

In Mesopotamia we see the first use of glazed bricks with decorative function that is exemplified by the bricks of the famous Frieze of the Archers in the palace of Darius I in Susa

The islamic ceramics
The Museum's collection of Islamic art represents a unique opportunity for visitors to appreciate the variety of the Islamic ceramic tradition, through a selection of objects produced across an incredibly vast territory spanning from Spain to Pakistan, between the 9th and the mid-20th century. Beside the exhibits in the showcases there are a rich selection of sherds, for the most part donated by Frederick Robert Martin between the end of the Twenties and the beginning of the Thirties of the 20th century. In A1 one can admire the most ancient fragments of the collection, dating back to 9th century Iraq: they are sherds decorated with polychrome lustre, as well as a first example of blue-and-white, a colour scheme which later became the staple of the Chinese and the Islamic productions alike. The showcases on the ground level contain Iranian objects, the most ancient of which date back to the 9th and early 10th century. They are characterized by ‘slip-painted’ and ‘splashed-sgraffito’. It was however the desire to imitate porcelain vessels from the Far East that inspired Persian ceramists during the Seljuq era (11th – 13th century) to experiment with new technologies and techniques, seeking to obtain equally thin and translucent products. These experimentations led to the development of stone-paste, mostly coated with turquoise or cobalt blue glazes, as well as lustre-painted vessels. This paste characterizes exemplars (drawer B14) of mina’i ceramics, whose decorations over glaze recall the contemporary miniatures. During the Ilkhanid epoch in the 14th century, the under-glaze painting decoration became predominant; examples of this technique include the Sultanabad and Juveyn bowls. The imitation of Chinese porcelain continued under the Safavid dynasty (16th-17th centuries) with blue and white ceramics. Gombrun works, characterised by extremely thin and often engraved surfaces, have also been dated to this period.   Other vases and tiles come from Qajar Persia (18th-19th centuries) and are characterized by a perfect bland of traditional continuity and opening towards western influences. On the ground floor some contemporary pieces of furniture are exhibited, they are of a great ethnographical interest and come from different regions. Numerous sherds of Fatimid Egyptian ceramics (late 10th to late 12th century) are displayed in drawers A2-A8, encompassing a stunning variety of techniques, colours, and decorative motifs: here one can admire lusterware decorated sherds and the brilliant glazing over the siliceous faience. The variety of the paintings under-glaze is outstanding: arabesques, inscriptions, figurative motifs and elaborated geometrical twists made in Egypt and Syria in Ayyùbide epoch (end 12th – half 13th century, drawers B1-7) when the palette of colours included the dark red. During the Mamluk epoch (end 13th – beginning 15th century) the siliceous faience was widely used, it was painted under-glaze with black and blue “sectors” motifs, or decorated only with the blue glaze, richly represented at MIC; the drawers B2 and B3 contain numerous bases of blue-and-white cups signed by the ceramists. The sherds in the drawers C3–C5 belong to the Mamluk Egypt, they are decorated with inscriptions and emblems on a clay body. On the upper level the splendour of Spanish lustre-wares can be admired: albarellos, bowls, and large ornamental plates, sometimes embellished with blue motifs, with a rich decorative repertoire featuring stars, bryony leaves, and religious epigraphy in Gothic characters. Not to be missed the characteristic tiles from Spanish palaces, decorated in cuenca and cuerda seca; further examples can be found in the Museum's section dedicated to tilework. The Spanish scene is completed by some brown and green fragments from Paterna dating back to the 14th and 15th centuries (drawer D13). Equally rich is the collection of the material from Ottoman Turkey (16th -18th century): tiles, dishes and jugs, lively decorated in particular with the impressive red, typical of Iznik ceramics, showing fancy motifs. The later Turkish production is also on display in the showcase dedicated to Kütahya and Çhannakalè, revealing a less refined style but also indicating an enduring creativity adapting to new market requirements. Lively Qallaline tiles (drawer D5), featuring a simplified interpretation of Iznik motifs, are an important example of the ceramic production of North Africa under Ottoman rule. The visitor's journey ends with a collection of modern pieces from Afghanistan and Pakistan, being an interesting example of technical continuity with ancient techniques, but also the expression of a still thriving craftsmanship in these countries. (GM)

During the Abbáside epoch the Iraqi ceramists produced bowls and vases characterized by thin profiles, covered with white glaze and precious lustre paintings influenced by the art of the glass

From the end of the 11th century a new white clay paste with a powder consistence was introduced in the ceramic production, it was the siliceous faience, probably created by the Persian potters

During the sultanate of Suleiman the Magnificent (1520-1566) the centre of Iznik (the ancient Nicea) became the seat of the most important ceramic manufacture of the Ottoman empire.

Also in the Egyptian Fatimide epoch the lustre technique reached outstanding results, it was characterized by a great variety of calligraphic and figurative decorations, with animals

This kind of containers were used to carry spices, balms, perfumes, syrups and pharmaceutical substances, sometimes traded in Europe

The well-known decoration with “flowers and leaves of bryonia” is typical of the Spain-Moresque production in Manises (a suburb of Valencia), around the half of the 15th century.

In Ilkhànide epoch, beside the rich vessels for the kitchen, many floor covering tiles and sheets were produced. This work is particularly noteworthy for the presence of the date 1282-83 (691 E)

During the Safàvide epoch the production a particular kind of lightness vessels called “Gombrun” spread out, this name derived from an important Persian Gulf port

Credits: Story

Museo Internazionale delle Ceramiche in Faenza

Eugenio Maria Emiliani

Claudia Casali

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Giorgio Assirelli

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Valentina Mazzotti

Emanuela Bandini
Federica Giacomini
Monica Gori

Rita Massari
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Nicola Rossi

Gian Luigi Trerè

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Maria Antonietta Epifani
Brunetta Guerrini
Paola Rondelli
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Dario Valli
with the collaboration of
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with the collaboration of
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Marcela Kubovova

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Vittorio Argnani
Giancarlo Dardi
Alberto Mazzoni
Alberto Morini

Romano Argnani

GUIDA del Museo Internazionale delle Ceramiche in Faenza
curated by
Claudia Casali e Valentina Mazzotti

Claudia Casali
Roberto Ciarla
Antonio Guarnotta
Fiorella Rispoli
Gabriella Manna
Valentina Mazzotti
Stefano Anastasio

Catalogue entries
Elena Dal Prato

Elena Dal Prato
Dario Valli

Elisa Paola Sani
with the collaboration of
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Claudia Casali e Valentina Mazzotti

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