FLORENCE, ITALY – This coming spring (May 16th-September 16th), the Museo Nazionale del Bargello in Florence, Italy, proposes an exhibition dedicated to Renaissance “istoriata” maiolica, the tin-glazed earthenware featuring narrative scenes and/or figurative subjects, which dates from this period, and its direct dependency on literary, historical and figurative sources.
The initiative intends to shed special light on the important collections of the Bargello, which also include a precious group of maiolica ware from the Medici collection, enriched for the occasion by other significant specimens on loan from prestigious Italian and foreign collections.
The exhibition will unfold in the rooms of the Bargello along an itinerary divided into two principal sections: the first dedicated to a selection of themes from classical mythology, and the other to several episodes from ancient history.
The exhibition will offer visitors the possibility to perceive the far-reaching and multiform dependency of historiated maiolica on great Renaissance models, especially those borrowed from painting.
The Italian ceramic workshops were indeed among those animated by a great and constant desire to acquire and incorporate figurative models of certain attraction in their repertories, drawing inspiration from medals, plaques, drawings, small bronzes and engravings.
From the ceramic workshops, and especially from the early XVI century, the Italian maiolica master-painters began to develop an increasingly more attentive assimilation of pictorial themes, incorporating them into their own works. They began to ‘transcribe’ the xylographs illustrating the printed editions of literary texts, such as the Old and the New Testaments, the Metamorphoses by Ovid, and the History of Rome by Livy; or they would compose loose sheets, especially Marcantonio Raimondi and his circle, who diffused the Raphaelesque ‘proofs’ and compositions by the greatest Italian painters among the ceramic workshops.
For the entire XVI century, these models therefore represented iconographic vehicles and the cultural supports of reference, given that thanks to their rapid circulation, they constituted the primary itinerant documents of a culture that was produced, matured and invoked by a growing and more cultured clientele.
To highlight this close figurative and suggestive relationship, the exhibition will juxtapose the maiolica ware alongside various examples of applied arts, especially those that contributed to diffusing the aulic themes of the culture of that time over a more extensive range, and became sources of inspiration for the master-painters of maiolica.
The selection of “historiated” maiolica ware includes important exemplars of Cafaggiolo and Deruta maiolica, but it especially focuses on the productions of two of the most prestigious poles of production of ceramics in the Renaissance, such as Faenza and the duchy of Urbino, where even the Medici family purchased sumptuary manufactures to display in their illustrious residences.
Alongside the descriptions of the works, the exhibition catalogue will also contain scientific contributions by Italian and foreign specialists.