Tuscan crafts: Montelupo earthenware

March 21, 2015  |  Culture and Art

Villa le Barone Earthenware in a lounge

Tuscan crafts are well alive and Montelupo’s earthenware production techniques have remained unchanged since the Renaissance, bringing us wonderfully decorated plates, vases, jugs …

Earthenware is a clay-based ceramic, one of the most common and oldest techniques used. Its discovery  and its dissemination in the West during the Renaissance represented a major technical advance: as experts point out, for the first time, the potter did not anymore have to rely on the  the ”cloisonné technique” to delineate colors. He could use the white background to paint and elaborate various types of decors, often inspired by great artists. On the white, porous glaze, colors could be laid by brush, without the risk of spill on the varnish. The décor could be then appear quite vividly, which was not until then possible with the dark only clay background.

The manufacture of pottery is an art that requires a lot of skill and attention to detail. Several steps are required before arriving at the final earthenware piece: first, turning and shaping or molding, then firing at over 1000 ° centigrade. Next comes the glazing and decorating with a brush and finally a second firing secures enamel and design.

The Italian Renaissance ceramics is often called “majolica” because it was inspired by ceramics coming from Spain going  through the island of Mallorca.  The small town of Montelupo, close to Villa le Barone, became one of the most important Renaissance majolica production centers, both at the Italian and European level.

Montelupo: Hand Painting in the Lorenzaccio workshop

By the late thirteenth century and for more than three centuries, the kilns burgeonned within this city, so much so that a law had to be enacted to limit the release of manufacturing waste that obstructed the course of the river “Pesa”. Gradually, as the custom of banquets grew, the number of items needed to set up tables and to be exhibited on the sideboards blossomed and Montelupo’s craftsmen competed to create more and more beautiful shapes, decorations, colors. To understand the Renaissance, it is necessary to observe closely the great scenes depicted on the plates, vases, jugs… Unfortunately the production of Montelupo earthenware began to decline in the last three centuries and today, only remain a limited number of production facilities, one of the best being “Lorenzaccio”.

Earthenware made by this workshop reflects the passion, pride and mastery of the art of ceramics of all those who work there. Some ceramics are executed with the lathe, respecting the old techniques, but casts are also used to create more geometrical shapes. This workshop reproduces old and traditional ceramics of the Renaissance and also reinterprets ancient motifs, found on old tiles, frames, mosaics. It also creates many new and contemporary forms, inspired by nature, with flowers, fruits, landscapes. The Lorenzaccio artisans are also very proud to be able to achieve, in cooperation with their clients, customized objects to fit perfectly in their households. Guests of Villa le Barone can admire a number of ceramics at the Villa itself, but we recommend them  also to visit the store in Florence and even, by appointment, the workshop in Montelupo.


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