Majolica came about in the Middle Ages and reached its glory during the Renaissance when, thanks to such art patrons as the Della Rovere family, one of Italy’s most flourishing industries took hold between Urbino, Urbania – then called Casteldurante – and Pesaro.
Spending time in the Province of Urbino-Pesaro learning about the plates, mugs, cups, jars and pharmacy vases still being made in the workshops of this land of majolica can be a very rewarding experience.
Pesaro is one of Italy’s most important ceramics centres and is graced with refined Raphaelesque decorations dating to the XVI century and somewhat
more modern elements (including the classic “Pesaro rose”) introduced by the Casalli e Callegari factory, which was active from 1763 to 1815.
Apart from the many workshops still operating in the Pesaro area, the two city museums -the Picture gallery and the Ceramics Museum- also merit a visit.
But it is in Urbino, the capital of the Renaissance, that the art of majolica reached its apex. The Palazzo Ducale is home to many masterpieces, plates and works from the Patanazzi factory and by Nicola da Urbino.
In nearby Urbania, once known as Casteldurante, the majolica tradition still thrives. It became famous in the XVI century thanks to the local ceramists who, under the patronage of the Della Rovere ruling family, could employ the talent of famous painters and thus give birth to plates and plaques hosting veritable paintings. Modern-day artisans are still inspired by the old motifs and elegant decorations which made durantine ceramics famous the world over, fine examples of which make up the collections of the Ducal Palace and the Parish Museum.
In Ascoli Piceno the majolica tradition dates to at least the XIV century. After an interruption lasting some four hundred years, it returned in 1812 with renewed vigour, thanks to the work of the Paci and the Matricardi factories that took advantage of contributions from such greats as Adolfo De Carolis and Bruno da Osimo. Production today continues at the M.A.A. (Maioliche Artistiche Ascolane) and thanks to the activities of numerous artisanal factories that are inspired by the past. For some years now, Ascoli Piceno has joined the ranks of cities with an ancient ceramics tradition and, with its Earth and Fire project, has begun a process of promoting the ceramics workshops run by many
young ceramists who work in and around the city. The Museo della Ceramica (Ceramics Museum) was recently opened in the lovely San Tommaso convent, a building not only designated to the exhibition of precious historical city collections, but also conceived as a hub for the ceramic arts as a whole.
In Appignano, in the Province of Macerata, they make rustic terracotta with characteristic finishes that go from shiny golden or blue to the classic green-speckled white, all the way to the traditional biscuit.
In Fratte Rosa there is an original ancient tradition of shapes and designs represented in the production of terracotta and, in particular, the cocci di Fratte Rosa (Frate Rosa earthenware), which owes its name to the pink colour of the bricks used to build the houses here. The local Museo della Terracotta e della Terra cruda (Terracotta and Raw Earth Museum) is located on the premises of the Franciscan convent of Santa Vittoria. It is part of a long and complex project aimed at safeguarding and promoting the artisanal roots of the town in an appropriate manner.
The nearby town of Barchi is also famous for its terracotta production. At the Museo di Orci e Orciai e della Banda Grossi (Banda Grossi and Jar and Jar-makers Museum) one can admire pieces made by one of the last experts, Peppe Furiassi, and the brothers Giovanni
and Duilio Bartocetti, using ancient techniques. It is the last artisanal heritage left by Elio and Delvidio Furiassi to the Artigiana Vasai association, the only one which managed to survive in that time of decline brought on by the introduction of industrial production and the advent of plastic.
Text was taken up and elaborated by the pubblication “Made in Marche – 0km flavours and quality shopping”