pot-painters. During the first two decades the influence of Faenza was paramount, and though the encroachments of purely pictorial motives are clearly indicated on the wares, room was still found for ornamental patterns. The broad rims of the dishes were covered with beautiful arabesque designs, frequently including grotesque figures, masks, dolphins and cherubs (see the Faenza Casa Pirota piece, 1525, Plate VI.). Sometimes reserved in the white on a dark blue ground and shaded with light blue and yellow, sometimes traced in dark blue on a paler grey-blue glaze (called berettino) or painted in darker tints on a ground of orange or full yellow, the Faventine arabesques form a conspicuous feature of the early wares of this century. Honeysuckle patterns and interlaced lines drawn in pure white on a toned tin-enamel (white on white or sopra-bianco decoration) commonly appear on the sides of the deep wells of the dishes, while in the centre is a single figure, a coat of arms, or a small figure-subject. A similar treatment, without the sopra-bianco, was accorded to the fruit-dishes, shallow bowls on low feet, &c., with moulded gadroons or scalloped sides, which are generally attributed to Faenza or Castel Durante. The workshops of Siena were also noted for delicately painted grotesques and arabesques, with a rich brownish-yellow or deep black ground. At Gubbio, too, the “grotesque” decoration was practised with marked success. Other developments of this style are the “a candelieri” designs, in which grotesques were symmetrically arranged round some central subject, such as a candelabrum or vase, and “a trofei” in which trophies of arms, musical instruments, and other objects were symmetrically disposed, or arranged in studied disarray throughout the design; these patterns are generally associated with the wares of Castel Durante and Deruta. Lovers’ gifts, dishes in which the whole space is occupied by a portrait bust of a girl or man, with the name and a complimentary adjective inscribed on a ribbon in the background, were common to Faenza, Castel Durante and many other factories. Elaborate figure-subjects also were attempted early in the century at Faenza and with no little success, as may be seen from a dish in the British Museum, which is entirely occupied by the scene of the death of the Virgin, after a print by Martin Schöngauer, delicately painted in shades of blue, and dated about 1500.
In the early Faventine school the outlines of the figures are almost always traced in blue, even when they are laid on the grey-blue berettino ground, and blue was the prevailing colour of the shading and details. In the third decade of the century the style affected at Urbino superseded that of Faenza. The majolica painter’s palette was now complete; in addition to the primitive blue, manganese-purple, transparent green and yellow, we find black, white, orange, greens of varying shades, brown, and a great number of intermediate tints obtained by mixing the standard colours. All the colours of the majolica of the best periods were painted on the tin-enamel before the final glazing, and were capable of standing the full heat of the fire. Such a thing as painting in enamels on the finished ware and refiring them at a lower heat was unknown before the end of the 17th or beginning of the 18th century. A true red colour seems to have been beyond the power of most of the Italian majolists, and was only attained at Faenza, and with less complete success at Cafaggiolo; the famous red of the Turkish pottery behaves very indifferently on tin-enamel.
|Urbino Potter’s mark.|
In the Urbino style, which now became general, the ware was given over entirely to pictorial subjects, scenes from history or romance, scriptural and mythological, copied from the compositions of the Italian painters and usually set in a background of Italian landscape. Guidobaldo II., duke of Urbino, spared no pains to develop this phase of the art; the cartoons of Raphael, engraved by Marc Antonio and others, were placed at the disposal of the pot-painters, as well as the paintings of Michelangelo, Giulio Romano, Battista Franco, Rosso Rossi, Perugino, Parmeggiano and many more, and these, together with engravings by Agostino Venetiano, Marco Dente, Enea Vico and others, were copied, with more or less fidelity, on the majolica. Some of the painters, as, for instance, Xanto Avelli, were eclectic in their tastes and made up their subjects by taking a figure here or there from various pictures. Thus of three figures on a plate in the British Museum, painted with the Dream of Astyages, one is borrowed from Raphael and another from Mantegna. These “istoriati” wares reached their zenith at Urbino between the years 1530 and 1560, when the workshops of the Fontana family were in full activity; but their popularity was very general, and skilful painters at many other towns produced specimens that it is hard to distinguish from those of Urbino. Baldasara Manara was a prolific painter in this style at Faenza; Pesaro and Castel Durante were little behind Urbino in the skill of their artists, the Lanfranchi family in the former town having a well-deserved reputation, while the founders of the Fontana factories learnt their art in the latter; and a few pieces of considerable merit bear the name of Rimini as their place of origin.
There will always remain a large number of specimens of majolica which cannot be assigned with certainty to any particular factory, partly because the same style of painting was in vogue at many places at the same time, and partly because of the itinerant propensities of many of the painters, whose signed works prove that they moved from place to place to practise their art. There are, however, a few prominent artists whose touch is sufficiently well known from the examples that bear their signatures to enable us to classify a considerable proportion of the finest pieces. First of these is Niccola Pellipario, the founder of the Fontana family, who moved from Castel Durante to Urbino in 1519, and worked at the latter place in the factory of his son, Guido Fontana. There is little doubt that he was the painter of the famous service in the Correr Museum at Venice, which marks the transition from the style of Faenza to that of Urbino, and his free figure-drawing, the oval faces with strongly marked classical features, the peculiarly drawn knees, the careful landscapes and the characteristic balls of cloud are easily recognized in quite a number of pieces in the British Museum (see the Gonzago Este piece, Plate VI.). His pupil, who frequently signed his name in full, Xanto Avelli da Rovigo, was one of the foremost Urbino painters, and his work is characterized by bold colouring and fine figure-drawing, with a marked fondness for yellowish flesh tints. But Niccola’s grandson, Orazio Fontana (see example, Plate VI.), was perhaps the most celebrated exponent of the pure Urbino style, and his free drawing and soft harmonious colouring, in which a brilliant blue is usually conspicuous, are unequalled by any other majolica painter of the period.
Certain characteristic wares of Faenza have already been noted. Those with the grey-blue (berettino) glaze were principally made at the factory called Casa Pirota, though inferior imitations were also produced at Padua, and a blue glaze of paler tint was largely used at Venice. Dolphins are a frequent motive in the arabesque ornaments of the same Faventine workshop, and many of the wares are marked with a circle divided by a cross and containing a dot in one of the quarters. A capital P crossed with a line or paraph is another Faventine mark, and a somewhat similar monogram, with an S added to the upper part, is found in the wares of Cafaggiolo. It has already been stated that a red colour is peculiar to Faenza and in an inferior and browner tint to Cafaggiolo; it was used, according to Piccolpasso, at the factory of Vergiliotto in the former place. At Cafaggiolo, the factory of the Medici family, many fine pieces were painted, mostly in the Faventine style; a deep blue, heavily applied and showing the marks of the brush, was freely used in backgrounds, and delicate running leaf scrolls in paler blue and reminiscent of