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Maiolica update...

Hi everyone,

Just a quick update on what I found out about maiolica at the British Library.

In "The Art of the Precursors" (Henry Wallis, 1901), the author bemoans the lack of contemporary pictures of maiolica to help date things. The only artwork he knows of is "Nativity of the Virgin" in the Gallery at Siena, who he attributes to Ambrogio Lorenzetti (but which is now attributed to Pietro Lorenzetti). This depicts various types of ceramics, but nothing really albarelli-shaped.

I didn't find much in "La maiolica antica abruzzese" (Gaetano Polidori, 1949), except for a picture (plate 39) of two very nice vasi alborelli by Dr Francesco Antonio Grue (1686-1746) - way out of our date-range, but these each had three ornamental feet, which reminded me a little of the feet on the "barrel stands" on f88. I didn't see any feet on anything else - the barrel stands remain enigmatic.

In "L'antica maiolica di Pesaro dal XIV al XVII secolo" (Berardi Paride, 1984), Figures 33 & 34 show two grande albarelli, 36.6 and 37.3 cm tall respectively: both blue with a little yellow detail (one depicting a peacock/turkey?, the other two facing figures with "HUMILITAS ALTA PETIT" inbetween), both dated to 1480-1490. Figure 2 shows fragments of various grande albarelli con ritratti, dated 1450-1490: less colours seems to be equated with "earlier". Figure 38 has a "brocca da farmacia" from the Fitzwilliam, dated 1470-1490, decorated in a "foglia gotica pura" style. Figure 41 has a "bottiglia da farmacia", 1480-1490, with a picture of a running dog. And Figure 42 has a tall, thin albarello from 1480-190.

The vastest reference of all was "Storia della maiolica di Firenze" - two fat volumes, but by the time this got delivered to the reading room I only had a few minutes to flick through the one with all the pictures. :-/ Surprisingly, there didn't seem to be a lot of what I was looking for: the only plate I made a note of was fig. 44b, an albarello from the first quarter of the 15th Century.

Most of the other books I wanted turned out to be off-site: more on those when I get to see them. :-/

My conclusions: the rough time-line for maiolica seems to be:-
	1400-1470	simple geometric patterns in blue
	1470-1480	patterns start becoming more gothic: some yellow
	1480-1500	introduction of artistic themes and depiction, much more yellow
	1500-1530	istoriato - extremely ornate ornamentation

Even though this would date the VMS' barrels to (say) 1450-1470, there don't seem to be any similar albarelli (or even small fragments of them) extant from this period that have anything like the simple decoration styles of the VMS' ones.

Also: the barrel stands (and their feet) remain a mystery - there's nothing even slightly like them in any book I've seen so far. Strange. :-/

Once I've read a couple more sourcebooks, I'll feel confident enough to grill ceramics historians on this: I think I'm now pretty close to getting as complete a picture of this as I'll be able to.

Cheers, .....Nick Pelling.....