Ceramics in Faenza
from the Middle Age to the Baroque
Starting from the Middle Ages Faenza stood out as excellent ceramic centre, so that to join its name to the ceramic typology which distinguished it: the majolica, known in Europe from the middle of the 16th century as faÏence.
In the Middle Ages the potters in Faenza developed a brilliant “archaic “ period, producing majolica (above all jugs, but also “albarelli”, pitchers, bowls, and other shapes) painted with the characteristic colors manganese brown and copper green (seldom the blue). They were richly decorated with zoomorphic, vegetal, epigraphic and armorial motifs, often devoted to the families and illustrious persons in town (fig. 1). Beside the majolica vessels also engobed and sgraffiato ceramics came out on the top, they were painted in copper green and iron brown, they were decorated with motifs represented in this publication and had been produced for centuries.
After the “archaic” period the majolica pieces were refined under the technological aspect, thanks to a more brilliant and thicker glaze, and with an articulate decorative repertoire characterized by a rich palette of colors. Beside the blue color, which often prevailed, stood out the green and different shades of yellow : cool (“cedrino”) and warm (“pavona”). During the early Renaissance particular kinds of decoration, also called “families”, were created . The gothic influenced “gotico-floreale” were flanked by decorations inspired to byzantine, Arabian, and far Eastern motifs such as the relief “zaffera”, the “Italian-Moorish”, the “peacock feather’s eye”, the “Persian little palm” and the “porcelain” style.
Between the end of the 15th and the beginning of the 15th century the ceramic decorations gained several motifs from the Renaissance, in particular they focused on the human figure, initially they were idealized images, such as the love vessels with the portraits of the “belle”, the beautiful beloved women and later they developed true “istorie”, historical narrations. Since the first decades of the 16th century, when the “istoriato” style reached its peak , the potters in Faenza used to decorate the refined vessels with stories from the mythology, the holy Bible, the Roman history, they were drawn up from engravings and illustrations. The figurative genre included also a small but precious production of little sculptures, most of them were ink-stands, with devotional and secular subjects.
Another typical characteristic of the ceramic production of the local workshop during the Renaissance was the bluish-grey glaze (“berretino”) painted allover the surface and decorated with festoons, fruits, leafy spirals motifs, with “grotesques” (fig. 2), “trophies” made up of arms and musical instruments, the latest also painted with colored glazes on a white background. In the middle of the 16th century the decorations on the majolica surface became more and more refined and elaborated and covered allover the background reaching interesting decorative results such as the “quartieri” (panels) motif. A similar decorative vividness characterized the more popular “geometrico-fiorito”, geometrical, flowered motif majolica wares.
Actually the real fortune of the potters in Faenza was represented by the creation of a style in opposition with the largely decorated and colored majolica pieces, those ceramics were characterized by an overall thick white glaze, they were called “Faenza white”. The more and more elaborated shapes, often characterized by moulded and interlacing motifs, contrasted with the simplification of the decoration, sometimes not present or just sketched with light and essential brush stokes, from which the term “compediario” arose to indicate the pictorial style (fig. 3). The fortune of the “Faenza white” lasted from the half of the 16th to the whole 17th century supported by the appreciation for the works produced by Calamelli, Bettisi and Enea Utili workshops, just to mention the best known. (VM)
Inside the ovoid body jug is painted a scene representing a woman who rides a crawling bend man. It is the legend of “Aristotle and Fillide”, a clear reference to the courtly them.
This decoration, beside showing a precious images of the customs of the epoch, is part of the “italo-moresco” style which joins in a unique pattern the Moresque and the Western traditions.
The “wrapped” leaf decoration originates from the gothic architecture and it is also called “gattone” (big cat), for its rampant cat shape
The dish has a narrow well and a wide rim, it is decorated with the flowering palm” of Galeotto Manfredi, lord of Faenza, together with the emblem of Saint John the evangelist.
In the Renaissance the majolica of Faenza definitively leaves the gothic and oriental decorative motifs. The charming ladies painted on majolica were brides, portrayed on the bridegroom’s commission to celebrate their union.
The “graffita” (engraved ceramic) production in Faenza started at the end of the 14th century, even if in a limited production compared to the majolica one.
The little sculpture represents the “Judgment of Paris”. The five characters of the sculpture are grouped around a fountain with a column (to keep the ink) and an hexagonal basin (tool post).
In the 16th century the diffusion of the Chinese porcelain and the numerous contacts with the far East, influenced the potters in Faenza who produced a new decoration called “porcelain style”
Around the medallion elegant foliated scrolls are painted in a blue “berettino” glaze that recalls the taste of the epoch in fashion especially in Venice.
The scene is inspired by a well known engraving by Marcantonio Raimondi. The author is Baldassarre Manara, leading figure in the “istoriato” style in Faenza.
The “istoriato” painting has been attributed to Nicolò da Fano, a majolica painter from Marche region who, around the half of the 16th century, was working at the Virgiliotto Calamelli workshop.
The work is an excellent example of the changing trends concerning the painting on majolica that, beside the tradition of the colored “istoriato” represented the so called “revolution of the white”
The character in the middle may be the legendary hero Marco Curzio, painted in a “compendiario” style. In the middle of the foot the signature of the Virgiliotto Calamelli’s workshop is visible.
The creation of this precious salts for the sumptuous table of rich commitments was inspired by the art of the precious metals, in particular by the silver objects.
The well-known “white” vessels were on fashion and required by the nobles of the age, they wished to celebrate their rank through the refined majolica called “faïence” all over Europe.
Workshops of the Italian Renaissance
The section presents the main Italian regions that distinguished themselves in the production of Renaissance maiolica. Each centre demonstrated excellence and specialisation that contributed in making the sixteenth century the golden age of Italian maiolica.
The Renaissance maiolica from Latium is introduced by its medieval production, decorated with characteristic two-tone manganese-brown and copper green wares, also common in other centers of central-northern Italy. The jugs known as ‘panate’, with their distinctive beak-shaped spout, are a typical Latium pottery shape and were still actively produced during the early Renaissance. In the sixteenth century Latium ceramics reflect the wide variety of Renaissance decorative styles, as evident by the typical maiolica of love and marriage, with belle donne (beautiful women) dishes made in Acquapendente from the mid-sixteenth century which enjoyed some popularity until the early decades of the next century.
The figural style is brilliantly documented by the production of the town of Castelli in Abruzzo. During the sixteenth century emerged the Pompeii workshop, makers of sumptuous maiolica series best demonstrated by examples of the pharmacy jars known as ‘Orsini-Colonna’, characterized by remarkable bright colors and a great formal and decorative creativity, which in its figural depictions, veers towards caricature. In the late sixteenth century more elaborate Baroque-inspired shapes were made, wares covered by an intense blue glaze and further embellished by decoration in gold and opaque white.
In Umbria the centre of Deruta had already distinguished itself in the Middle Ages, but became particularly famous in the early sixteenth century with the production of splendid belle donne display (da pompa) dishes, decorated both with colours or in monochrome blue embellished by iridescent reflections of metallic lustre, mainly in gold, but also in ruby red. The lustre technique, derived from the Islamic world through the mediation of ceramics produced in Moorish Spain, was also mastered in another Umbrian town, Gubbio, where the workshop of Maestro Giorgio Andreoli operated for several decades, producing and decorating with lustre beautiful istoriato (narrative painting) maiolica with religious, mythological and Roman history scenes.
A few centres in the Duchy of Urbino (Urbino, Pesaro, Gubbio and Casteldurante - present day Urbania) excelled in the istoriato style. The engravings of printed books (among them, the various editions of the Bible and Ovid's Metamorphoses), in addition to the diffusion of Raphael’s prints by Marcantonio Raimondi and his workshop, represented a major source of models for skilled istoriato painters. In the Urbino area undisputed masters of the latter style were Nicola da Urbino and Francesco Xanto Avelli and, from the mid-sixteenth century, the Fontana family; the fortunes of this genre lasted until the end of the century and beyond, thanks to the Patanazzi family producing repetitive and slavishly imitative works.
Tuscany is represented by works from the Florentine area (Montelupo and Cafaggiolo) and Siena. The rich selection of Montelupo maiolica documents the many decorative groups which defined the art of Renaissance maolica; from the fifteenth century examples of ‘relief-blue’ decoration (zaffera a rilievo) or of Hispano-moresque influence, to the sixteenth century and the istoriato style, to grotesque decoration and motifs imitating oriental porcelain. Admiration for Chinese ‘blue and white’ porcelain of the Ming Period led Italian potters to imitate not only the decoration but also the white and translucent ceramic body. It was in the Florence of the Medici, during the last quarter of the sixteenth century, that the first porcelain (or first soft paste porcelain) was produced in Europe.
Concluding the section are the vibrant color schemes of Venetian maiolica. Sumptuous decorations of grotesques, trophies and fruit populate ceramics covered by characteristic light blue glaze (berettino). More colourful is the production of the second half of the sixteenth century with its elaborate istoriati and imposing pharmacy jars with busts and figures, enclosed in an exuberant decoration of foliage, flowers and fruit
It is called “love vessels”, a typical production of the Renaissance that portrayed the image of the sweetheart. The decoration, typical of Faenza and of central Italy, was produced for all the 1500.
The outstanding refresher in the shape of a moulded ship is characterized by the typical blue lapis lazuli glaze (light blue majolica), created in the Castelli workshops in the late 16th century.
The decorative function of these works which decorated the houses of the epoch was enhanced by the precious metallic lustre decoration. In the centre San Girolamo penitent is portrayed.
The Master Giorgio Andreaoli’s workshop marked the ceramic art production in Gubbio during the first half of the 16th century, they were specialized in the production of gold lustre and ruby red glaze over majolica.
The cup portrays, overall the surface, “Camillo”, as written in the inscription which is unusual and rare in the male portraiture, dressed with Renaissance clothes.
Nicola of Gabriele Sbraghe, called Nicola from Urbino, was one of the best painters of “Raphaelesque” decorations on majolica.
The importance of this cup consists on the presence of the date “1529” and of the mark of the Maestro Giorgio “da Ugubio” workshop where the majolica was painted with lustre glaze.
The religious subjects constitute, together with the classical and mythological ones, one of the most important narrative components in the 16th century.
The work emblematically represents the high qualitative level of the workshops in Urbino and, in particular, of Antonio Patanazzi’s production in the late 16th century.
This ornamental motif characterized by thin vegetal patterns of Moresque taste, was one of the most successful decoration in the Tuscan ceramic repertoires at the end of the 15th century
It is supposed to be painted around 1515, when the Pope spent a shot time in the Medici’s Villa in Cafaggiolo, beside the majolica workshop, where this outstanding work was made.
The fascination of the mysterious Oriental porcelains and the wish to posses exclusive works persuaded the Grand Duke Francesco Maria de’ Medici to establish his own ceramic workshop in Florence.
Italian ceramics from the seventeenth to the
Italian production of the 17th-19th centuries is displayed following regional criteria; for each century the various geographical areas, from the south to the north of Italy, are represented by specific centres, pottery factories, individuals, styles and representative decorations.
The seventeenth century
During the seventeenth century, Renaissance decorative schemes continued to be in favour especially in central and southern Italy. Sicilian potters provided pharmacies with richly decorated sets of drug jars with a quartieri decoration (designs divided in compartments), trophy ornament, and festoons. Fine grotesques decoration were executed at Deruta and Montelupo during the 17th century. The istoriato style (narrative painting) was still practiced within the Marche region thanks to the activity of Ippolito Rombaldoni in Urbania (formerly Castel Durante). The tradition of foliate decoration on berettino (grey-blue) enamel continued to single out the pharmacy series of Lazio (Rome) and Veneto (Venice).
All regions adopted the bianchi style (white ware). The potteries of Apulia, Castelli, Deruta, the Marches and, naturally, Faenza are notable producers of the style. Made alongside elegantly moulded and pierced bowls and basins, are devotional works (plaques and sculptures with religious subjects, elaborate holy water stoups), sparsely decorated in compendiario (rapid, sketchy) style. An undisputed masterpiece of this style in the seventeenth century is the ceiling of the Church of San Donato in Castelli, made between 1615 and 1617.
Developed from white wares during the seventeenth-century was the style known as calligrafico (minute style) with an elegant repertoire of miniscule plants and animals, birds, insects, leafy twigs and fruit which became popular during the century. Effective naturalistic results in this style were achieved by Deruta, Faenza, and particularly Ligurian workshops. The latter borrowed monochrome blue on white decorations from the precious Ming Chinese porcelain, but also felt the influence of the decorative repertoire of Sino-Persian and Turkish (Iznik) ceramics.
At the same time a populist strand with vibrant chromatic effects and rapid sketchy painting developed, applied to every day pottery and devotional wares. Particularly remarkable results were achieved by Montelupo workshops with a lively figural style of soldiers, villagers and figures taken from the vast ensemble of characters from the Commedia dell'arte (‘harlequin wares’).
The eighteenth century
The eighteenth century was an era of technological innovations with the introduction of new materials such as porcelain and stoneware, which met with immediate success at the expense of maiolica.
Oriental porcelain had been admired for centuries and collected by elites from all over Europe, but its composition remained a secret until the early eighteenth century, when the first European hard-paste porcelain factory was created in Meissen, Saxony. Soon the secret of porcelain spread throughout Europe, including Italy, where several factories were founded: Vinovo in Turin, Cozzi and Vezzi in Venice, Ginori at Doccia (Fig. 1), Capodimonte, known from 1771 as Real Fabbrica Ferdinandea (Royal Factory of King Ferdinand), in Naples. Italian factories, following European trends, developed a varied repertoire of oriental decorative schemes (chinoiserie) and European style motifs (flowers, views, gallant scenes), produced on elegant tea, coffee and chocolate services. Graceful figures and small sculptural groups with villagers, peasant girls, ladies, knights and characters of the Commedia dell'arte were painted on glazed or unglazed porcelain (biscuit).
From the second half of the eighteenth century maiolica production also suffered from the overwhelming commercial success of English Style creamware which was invented in Staffordshire around 1740. In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, creamware was successfully produced in several Italian cities such as Savona, Milan, Turin, Venice, Treviso, Bassano, Este, Faenza, Pesaro and Naples. Its sophisticated ivory shade lent itself to the creation of fine openwork wares, or being modeled in relief and decorated with figures, landscapes, seascapes and rural scenes, both painted or transfer-printed, in blue or brown, especially on large dinner services.
Maiolica still dominated the production of ceramics for everyday use and devotional works (votive plaques, domestic holy water stoups) especially in southern and central areas.
The istoriato style continued to enjoy considerable success in Castelli and Naples thanks to families of talented painters (Grue, Gentile, Cappelletti, Massa, Sallandra and Criscuolo). In Tuscany the style was mastered in the centres of San Quirico d'Orcia and Siena through the activity of Bartolomeo Terchi and Ferdinando Maria Campani and in Savona with Gio Agostino Ratti, who continued the great period of istoriato Barocco (Baroque narrative painting).
Maolica tried to keep up with fashion (Fig. 2) by borrowing decorative schemes and colours from porcelain, introducing additional low-temperature colours (petit feu), especially purple-red. Such tones are obtained with an additional firing to the two traditionally required for maiolica, at around 700° degrees centigrade. Many producers in central and northern Italy (Casali-Callegari in Pesaro, Fink and Rolandi in Bologna, Ferniani in Faenza, Clerici and Rubati in Milan and Ferretti in Lodi) excelled in this technique but the competition with porcelain was lost in the long run.
The taste of the time veered towards European styles, predominantly French, with elegant decorative repertoire in Bérain-style, rocaille and lambrequins and a wide variety of realistic flowers. This was exemplified by the popular rose motif, inspired by Strasbourg porcelain and accompanied by a refined botanical repertoire, lively with insects and butterflies.
At the same time the fashion for Chinese inspired motifs (chinoiserie) developed. Motifs were taken directly from oriental porcelain or inspired by them. The eighteenth century witnessed an explosion of designs featuring Chinese and Indian flowers, pagodas, light boats and figures in oriental clothes.
The ceramics factory of the Ferniani counts, like many Italian factories, followed contemporary fashions. Founded in 1693, it dominated the artistic scene of the city of Faenza for two centuries.
From 1777, the Ferniani factory adopted the petit-feu technique for many motifs such as ‘peony flower’, ‘bouquet’, ‘rose’, ‘hut’ and ‘ruins’. The skilled Lombard painter Filippo Comerio distinguished himself in this technique during his stay in Faenza (1776-1781) when he collaborated with the Faenza factory. Another technological innovation adopted was creamware, used mainly for modeling superb mythological sculptural groups. During the late eighteenth century, following the new neoclassical taste, the factory transformed their decorative repertoire with the adoption of new styles; all’incensiere (Roman-style featuring incense-burners), a ghianda (acorns), a festone (festoons) and a foglia di vite (vine leaf motifs).
The original container in the shape of an owl, in the Caltagirone dialect called “cucca”, represents a peculiar production of Caltagirone ceramics influenced by the Arabic culture.
The scene inspired to a graphic version of the well-known painting by Annibale Carracci “The beans eater", is proposed through the original figurative Apulian language without perspective effects.
This devotional plaque is an interesting exemplar of the high level of quality of the “compendiario”(compendium style) production in Castelli in the 17th century.
This work is part of a series of big amphorae coming from Barberini Palace in Roma and was realized in Urbania, the town of ancient ceramic tradition in Marche that until 1636 was named Casteldurante
. The very refined “Raphaelesque” majolica produced in the Renaissance were substituted in the 16th century by less refined imitations with a more popular taste.
This dish is part of the 17th century successful decorative series commonly called “harlequins”. Being inspired by the popular characters of the “commedia dell’arte” they was createdby Montelupo potters.
Influenced by the artefacts coming imported from the Orient, the Ligurian potters created the so-called “tapestry” decoration, a term referring to the symmetrical position of the ornamental motifs
Due to its excellent artistic quality it is included in the pictorial genre called “Castellan-Neapolitan style” from the collaboration among artists from Abruzzo and Campania
Francesco Antonio Saverio determined a creative and fully original renewal of the “istoriato” painting. He painted the vases with representations rich with particulars. the vase was part of the “Certosa di Capri” set
Around in the middle of the 18th century the tecnique of “low firing” tried to enhance the palette of colours and apply the precious tone of the gold and purple red over the majolica.
The oriental world offered to the Ferniani manufacture a rich decorative contest to interpret in an occidental way. In this way it was born of the most popular motif of the majolica in Faenza: the “garofano”
The majolica became more precious thanks to the images of ancients architectonical ruins. This as represented in the “impagliata”, or table set for the woman who has just given birth.
Filippo Comerio (1747 – 1827) was a very versatile Lombard painter, he worked in Faenza from the end of 1776 to 1781, where collaborated with the Ferniani manufacture creating excellent and incomparable majolica works
The dish represents one of the best known oriental style motifs (“chinoiserie”) of the Antonibon manufacture production: the “ponticello” (little bridge) decoration.
The production of sculptural groups intensely characterized the first activity of the Ginori manufacture who distinguished himself for the will to re-create statues in the Greek and Roman classical style, made of porcelain.
In the last quarter of the 18th century the Ferniani manufacture, beside the rich majolica creations, started a new production using the white earthenware
In the 18th century a new ceramic material was introduced from England: the creamware. The trend established by this new product, inclined to imitate the porcelain, immediately conquered Europe
Achille Farina (1804 – 1879), an extraordinary artist, was the master of the lively creative “ceramic painting” tendency in Faenza
Founded by Ulisse Cantagalli around in 1880, the namesake manufacture emerged thanks to a production inspired to the greatest ceramic tradition of the 16th century.
Pio Fabri, a Roman ceramist, devoted his production to recover and update the ancient decorative techniques.
In the 20th century the ceramics was fully interpreted by the art Nouveau that enhanced the combination “art and creativity” in the handicraft, eliminating the obsolete hierarchy of the arts thanks to high quality works from an artistic and technical point of view.
Italy in the early Twentieth
The transition to the twentieth century is highlighted by a change in the architecture of the Museum: from the ancient quadrangle, which houses the historical collections, to the modern part, refurbished in the late 1990s, consisting of light and airy spaces.
The beginning of the itinerary is dedicated to Art Nouveau, a style that swept through the whole of Europe with specific local variations. Italy had an outstanding output, with major players such as Galileo Chini, of whom the museum has a rich collection donated by the artist himself and by his family. Vases with flowers with long stems, iridescent peacocks and carp, oriental and sophisticated decorations are part of the artistic repertoire of Chini and encapsulate fully the spirit of the time, as do the nearby elegant tiles of Manifattura Gregorj of Treviso.
Part of Art Nouveau and of late symbolism, a special place is dedicated to Domenico Baccarini, the prematurely deceased Faenza artist, painter, sculptor, draftsman, printmaker and ceramicist. He was responsible for some of the most interesting artistic, ceramic and decorative concepts of the turn of the century, especially for Faenza artists and workshops (for example the Manifattura Fratelli Minardi, directed by Virginio and Venturino Minardi and the Fabbriche Riunite Ceramiche, directed by Achille Calzi), playing a key role in the renewal of ceramics production.
Another Art Nouveau artist was Achille Calzi, a multifaceted and perceptive personality, a great intellectual spokesman for the modernist movement, whose production was characterized by a modern reinterpretation of traditional motifs, already incipient towards Art Deco, whose absolute protagonist was Francesco Nonni. Figures, little ladies, pierrots of elegant and refined shaping and decoration are part of its production, made in collaboration with Anselmo Bucci, Pietro Melandri and Paolo Zoli.
Noteworthy is the Corteo orientale (Oriental Parade), a work of extraordinary beauty and complexity, which documents the passion for the exotic typical of the era.
The 1920s were an important time for the renewal of Italian ceramic production which looked at the fashions of the time, to the evolution of Art Deco and into innovative techniques, useful both for industrial and artistic productions. Seminal figures were; in the Marche, Rodolfo Ceccaroni, in Piedmont, the Turin-based Eugenio Colmo (Goliath) and the Lenci pottery factory, the Tuscan Giuseppe Piombanti Ammannati, in Sardinia Federico and Pino Melis, in Lazio Alfredo Biagini, Pio Fabri, Torquato Castellani, Roberto Rosati, Francesco Randone and Duilio Cambellotti. The latter, a very talented artist, used the theme of the bucolic rural world and of the Roman countryside for his ceramics, which he considered a popular and didactical language.
Noteworthy in the field of ceramic sculpture is the classic and modernist artistic output of Ercole Drei; the extraordinary poetic power of Arturo Martini, considered the great architect of change towards modern Italian sculpture of the 20th century (he was active in Faenza between late 1917 and mid-1918); the simplicity of form and the explosive sculptural force of Domenico Rambelli; the lustred surfaces of Pietro Melandri and Riccardo Gatti.
In the 1920s and 1930s, Vietri sul Mare hosted a colony of artists from central Europe (including Irene Kowaliska, Margarete Thewalt/ Hannasch, Richard Dölker and Gunther Stüdemann) supported by the entrepreneur Max Melamerson, in close connection with the local artist Guido Gambone. New stylistic symbiosis between the northern European culture and original popular folklore developed and became new designs for the modern Vietri tradition.
Futurists were interested in ceramics from 1928, first in Faenza, involving the Gatti, Ortolani and Bucci workshops, then in Albisola from 1929 thanks to Tullio Mazzotti. With his brother Torido, Mazzotti worked with an innovative spirit, involving artists not just from all over Italy, for a different and modern artistic production, which continued after World War II.
Among the major players in the change of bourgeois taste and in innovation in industrial ceramic production were Gio Ponti and Giuseppe Gariboldi for Richard Ginori of Doccia, and Guido Andlovitz, Biancini Angelo and Antonia Campi for the Italian Ceramic Society, the Società Ceramica Italiana (SCI), of Laveno.
This amazing work shows a full deco style; it is made up of twenty-five elements and was created following the success the artist obtained in 1925 at the International Exposition of decorative and industrial modern arts in Paris (where obtained the silver medal).
He was an extraordinary artist, promoter of the Circle dedicated to him, he was a painter, sculptor, skilled drawer, engraver. This “vase” is a true sculpture with a symbolist influence reflecting the age.
The artist had a versatile personality, he embodied the figure of the true artist, emblematic representative of the modernity and of a new and decisive artist-designer’s role, also in the field of architecture and industry
In 1906 the brother Chini, Galileo and Chino, founded the manufacture “Fornaci San Lorenzo” in Borgo San Lorenzo. The production was characterized by decorations inspired to refined and elegant floral and zoomorphic. motifs
Pietro Melandri was well-known for the third firing technique, refined between 1922 and 1931, at the workshop he managed in collaboration with Focaccia
Cambellotti believed that ceramics represented above all a popular and widespread craft for everyday objects, usually with recurring themes borrowed from the rural world.
In the Twenties Eugenio Colmo,painter, graphic, illustrator, journalist, stylist and humorist, started to create ceramics preferring porcelain and cream-ware materials for his elegant Deco works.
Martini is considered one of the great exponents of the evolution of twentieth-century Italian sculpture into a modern style. The renewal of the sculpture coincides with the artist’s study and love for the great masters of the past
A precursor of today's 'industrial designers', he designed, thanks to his lively creativity, ceramics for serial production which ensured the introduction onto the market of new prototypes for objects for everyday use
His ceramics or “ornaments”, as he used to describe them, are unique pieces created through a completely new process, free and independent far from the standard production system.
From 1928 to 1929 Faenza was the scene of the Futurist experience. Marinetti himself created the first plate representing the movement at the “Bottega Gatti”.
In 1937 he moved to Laveno to collaborate with Guido Andlovitz at the “Società Ceramica Italiana” to create new models for the serial production of sculptures, such as the well-known “Atteone”, a garden work
An Effervescent and
Extraordinary Twentieth Century
Sculptural ceramics In Italy from the 1950s
Italy in the 1950s was a scene of great artistic foment characterised by a succession of poetics, styles and important exponents on the arts scene. After the Fascist Period, which nonetheless saw the development of classical-modern themes as well as vanguard creations, Italy experienced a new-found artistic vitality involving above all its younger generations. This clear break from the immediate past is indicative of a desire for knowledge and contact with contemporary artistic developments throughout the world, including ceramics. A period spanning just over a decade saw a rapid succession of movements , including Fronte Nuovo delle Arti, Forma 1, Realism, Spatialism and Nuclearism, Concretism, Origine, Otto Pittori, enriching the cultural scene with simultaneous and sometimes contradictory visions, all deriving from an insatiable hunger for novelty and experimentation, culminating in sometimes truly exceptional works.
The works on display have been divided into themes, reflecting our belief that the 1950s and its vast array of artists eschews chronological description.
The first, most immediate and wide-spread section regards figurative expression, picassism and neo-cubism which have all remained common elements within numerous artistic poetics to the present day. Figurative expression remains a decisive element for many artists, inspired by numerous statues executed by the undisputed master, Arturo Martini. Picassism and neo-cubism became wide-spread throughout Italy, particularly after 1947, the year in which Picasso delved into ceramics in Vallauris, embracing the rehabilitation of ceramics as an expressive 'medium' in response to the 'obsolescence of the technical virtuosity of material'. The 1950s-60s witnessed an increasing freedom in the working of this material; the role of ancient traditional ceramic painting was updated and reinterpreted, especially by Italian artists such as Meli, Gambone, Tramonti, Visani, Zancanaro, Fioroni.
Albisola became a centre for the ceramic experimentation and excellent production in the Post-war period, thanks to the presence of the great artists belonging to the main tendencies of the 20th century such as Fontana, Garelli, Carlè, Sassu, Baj and Fabbri. A significant presence for the international development of the art creations in this territory was the one of Asger Jorn, Danish artist who, in 1954, arranged in Albisola the “international meeting of ceramics”, a fundamental event for the international history of the art.
“Informal reflection” began during the mid-50s and represents a veritable stylistic revolution, a re-foundation of the linguistic system of art, in favour of a new conception and definition of material, originating from a new approach to reality inspired by post-war reconstruction, resulting in the liberation of figuration. Absolute protagonists were Leoncillo, Fontana, Valentini, Spagnulo, Bertagnin, Zauli and the young Cerone.
The “abstract and minimalist” dimension of sculpture became tangible in the mid-60s, a time of renewal, reflection and investigation of ceramic applications such as cladding, architectonic elements or surfaces, within an abstract-conceptual dimension which emerged, particularly in modular works, as it is evinced in the works of Tramonti, Tasca, Pianezzola, Tsolakos, Meli and Caruso.
Faced with a variety of artists who eschew categorisation (such as Baj, Bonaldi, Fior, Leoni), the exhibition concludes with an overview of promising talents of ceramic sculpture, a taste of the evolutions and developments to come in the 21st century, beside the recent Faenza Prizes (Andrea Salvatori, Giovanni Ruggiero, Nero / Alessandro Neretti and Silvia Celeste Calcagno).
The artist winner of five Faenza Prizes (1947, 1948, 1949, 1959, 1960) created this panel entitled “Internal Front” during the difficult years of the Second World War following propagandistic aims.
Melotti’s ceramic experience it was characterized by light majolica sheets, which can be paradoxically considered almost diaphanous, glazed with iridescent and metallic colours.
Bucci developed an important ceramic experience at Calzi’s workshop between 1918 and 1919. His production was tied to a very detailed research on technical, formal and pictorial characteristics of ceramics.
Leoncillo was the real great protagonist and innovator of the Italian ceramic sculpture in the Post War period. This work represents the artist’s post-cubist period that precedes the later “informal” period.
Starting from the Fifties Matteucci experimented the informal art using different material and reaching smooth sculptural results.
Painter, sculptor and ceramist Nanni Valentini was one of the supporter of the revolution that upset the modern conception of the ceramic sculpture in the Sixties.He was a real intellectual who wrote very important pages devoted to the sculpture and to the ceramic material.
In Faenza he was a pupil of Angelo Biancini. He started his first experimentation with the stoneware after his discovery of Picasso’s works exhibited at the Museum.
He was very skilful in the experimentations: his abstract works made in porcelain-stoneware together with the great plates decorated with subjects inspired to Picasso and Matisse
He was a true talent who died too early, he characterized his career with the constant research of new motivations, experimenting different contemporary art languages.
His creations are enhanced by what he called “psychologically significant images” which made his work “more and more a medicine for me and, luckily also for the others”.
In the Nineties in Faenza he started a collaboration, together with his son Andrea, with the Gatti workshop, giving birth to a series of ceramic figures inspired to the “Furious Orland”.
Heir of Martini, Fontana and Valentini’s poetics, Cerone was a great interpreter of contemporary sculpture where he joined different materials following a continuous experimentation.
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