Towards the end of the Dark Ages, earthenware was popularly thought to carry the plague and was consequently destroyed in huge quantities during the Black Death in Italy, up until the the early 15 C. Perhaps this loss of earlier work contributed to the resurgence and originality of "Majolica", tin-glazed painted pottery, during the Renaissance, when it became enormously popular and of high artistic quality. The Medici collected hundreds of pieces, many of which are now housed in the Bargello Museum. These masterpieces, plus many beautiful examples from other museums throughout the world, form the basis of this exhibition - "Fabulae Pictae: Myths and Stories in Renaissance Majolica".
Majolica was a product mostly of smaller centres. Florence itself had a comparatively small production, most of it made in Montelupo Fiorentino (still a centre of painted ceramic production) and Faenza, across the border in Emilia-Romagna. More was imported from Deruta but the finest pieces came from Urbino, where the court took practical steps to promote majolica production.
This exhibition displays some of the sources of Renaissance majolica subject matter in the form of woodcuts, engravings, drawings, medals, placquettes and bronzes, adjacent to the majolica pieces themselves. This is a huge help for some present day visitors who might not be as familiar with Ovid's "Metamorphoses" or, for that matter, the Bible, as were the original owners of these objects.
Over the years, there have been numerous excellent exhibitions of Renaissance majolica in Italy - this exhibition stands among the best of them.
More about Deruta.
More about Montelupo Fiorentino.
More about Urbino.
Author: Anna Maria Baldini
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