All About Majolica Deruta

History of Majolica

deruta-tThe term majolica is applied to earthenware that has been dipped in a white opaque glaze in order to provide a canvas for decoration and design. History tells us that this technique was developed as early as the ninth century by craftsmen in North Africa attempting to recreate the fine white Chinese porcelain of the time.

By the thirteenth century, the technique had spread and majolica was being produced in Spain, particularly the island of Majorca. Spanish traders brought the process to Italy and the term majolica was formed by the Italians to commemorate this heritage.In the fourteenth century, the town of Deruta, although it had had a difficult history before, became a major exporter of majolica to larger Italian cities. This was due to the surrounding land, which contained earth that was highly suitable for making the clay, and a large abundance of trees for firing kilns.

For the most part, Deruta has remained a force in ceramic production ever since that time. Renaissance patterns are painstakingly reproduced on a regular basis by craftsmen who have been studying the art for the better part of their lives. In addition, however, the influence of American and European buyers has continued to provide inspiration for innovation. The result… Deruta continues to hold its special place in the history of majolica.


Traditional Patterns

Raffaellesco is characterized by the image of a “dragon” and is based on the sixteenth century frescoes created by Raphael in the Vatican Palace.

Ricco Deruta is a design that takes the details of other sixteenth century frescoes, such as those by Perugino, and reinterprets them with classic Deruta colors and style.

Arabesco is based on seventeenth century calligraphic patterns. A vegetal, leafy design surrounds a center object, such as an animal or spray of flowers, and completely covers the form.The

Galletto Pattern, also known by similar names as well as Orvietano, was originally created in the color green near the end of the 19th century. The design was based on the green and white Deruta works created in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. Modern designers added the vegetal motifs, the rooster and the more contemporary colors of blue and red.


The Legend of the Rooster Pitcher

Italian legend honors the lowly barnyard rooster with a special place in history.

During the Middle Ages, in the city of Florence, the local noble family decided to celebrate the harvest by hosting a great feast for everyone. In a nearby city, the rival noble family heard of this feast and hatched a sinister plot to assassinate the eldest son of their archenemy.

The assassins would enter Florence during the wee morning hours after the feast, while everyone was sleeping soundly, (thanks to wine and a bowl of pasta, no doubt). After accomplishing their mission, they would then make their escape quickly and quietly with no one aware of anything.

It was not to be, however. Darkness fell after the feast; the group of assassins entered the gates of Florence without incident and found everyone sleeping deeply. They began to sneak through the city, looking for their victim when all of a sudden they were greeted by the loud cries of the roosters housed within the city walls. The assassins had encountered a most unlikely protector of Florenceā€™s noble family.

The entire town was awakened, including the eldest son. The group of assassins was captured and jailed. To honor his protectors, the noble son commissioned a work to immortalize his salvation from certain death.

The rooster pitcher forever honors the events of long ago and will bring good fortune to those who give it a prominent place in their home.


Creation of a Masterpiece

  • The unique clay like earth surrounding the hillside of Deruta is shaped into various forms at a pottery wheel. It is then fired in a kiln until hard and durable. This stage is known as the biscotto stage.
  • Next, the forms are dipped in a white glaze to produce the backdrop for the artist’s decoration. This is the bianco stage.
  • The artist creates and hand paints classic designs or new interpretations of the traditional using different colored pigments.
  • Once the pigment has been applied, a fine mist of crystal glaze (‘coperta’) is added to create a shiny, smooth finish with brighter colors.
  • The forms receive a final firing in a kiln to meld the white base to the form and fuse the pigments.


Caring for Majolica

To preserve the life and quality of handmade, handpainted majolica, the following is recommended:

  • Before filling with hot foods or liquids, temper your majolica with hot tap water.
  • When filling a mug, a metal spoon placed inside will help dissipate the heat.
  • Avoid applying pressure to the majolica with sharp knives or utensils as this may cause scratches.
  • Most majolica is dishwasher safe if cool water is used without drying heat. Handwashing is recommended.
  • Majolica is not safe for use in microwave or conventional ovens. Use in microwave ovens will accelerate the appearance of crazing.



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