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1500-1600 Unidentified ceramic Smithsonian American Art Museum Gift of John Gellatly 1929.8.489 Smithsonian American Art Museum
Luce Foundation Center, 4th Floor, 52A

Luce Center Label

Italian majolica ceramic ware was popular in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries. Its name derives from the Spanish island of Majorca, a large trading center for vessels sailing the Mediterranean. The art of majolica was first brought to the Western world by Islamic potters in the twelfth century. Craftsmen in Italy could not replicate the lustrous finish used by the Spanish artists, so instead they concentrated on the detail of the painting and the clarity of the colors. Majolica was produced in pottery factories, in which the throwers, painters, and kilnmen all worked side by side. First, the thrown clay form was fired to produce bisque ware. This was then covered with opaque lead and tin oxides and painted with glazes. The glazes were a dull blue and gray until fired for a second time, when they fused into glasslike purples, blues, greens, yellows, and reds. The illustrations on the pottery would range from mythological images to copies of famous works of art. A Renaissance painting by Rosso Fiorentino inspired the design for the plate displayed here [see 1929.8.479].


Dress - uniform - military uniform


Figure group

decorative arts - ceramic