Arlecchino Fine Arts - Ceramics of Sicily

The majolica art in Caltagirone




The majolica art in Caltagirone, where the soil is rich in clay, has very ancient origin; in fact the finding of the first kiln with remains of ancient potteries makes the beginning go up to the Muslim period and then to the Norman period, in William the bad (Malo) times (1160). The remains of the ancient Caltagirone workshops testify as the activity of the majolica workers in Caltagirone, named cannatari, begun in the Muslim period, has never finished in the following ages.

Along with the time the Caltagirone craftsmen have improved a high ability in the executive technique and in the decoration, showing with regard to the production of the other parts of south Italy, great originality and acquiring fame and renown comparable to the Neapolitan School. In the decorative art numerous jug painters are conspicuous (among them we quote the famous Branciforti).

In the centuries in this little village in the east of Sicily flourished more and more the majolica art, keeping in the use of the moresque patterns and of the colours (deep blue, gold yellow, manganese) the signs of its ancient arab-norman origins (the technique of the realization of some colours, above all the copper green, has remained secret for centuries).

From the second half of ‘700 an evolution in the decorative fancy took place; the palette becomes animated, the decorations become plastic, polychromatic, with renaissance floral patterns. Coloured enamel and plastic relief integrate themselves even if often the colour is of service to the relief: the Caltagirone ceramics of eighteenth century acquires a new charm and an unmistakable character. Among all, the most important are Blandini, Ventimiglia and Lo Nobile workshops.

Among the production of the Caltagirone masters there are tiles, the relief small basins, majolica vases, flower-stand vases with a muslin head, stoups, wash-basins, candlesticks, oil-lamps, altars; particular are the so called albarelli, cylindrical shaped vases often used by the chemists, decorated or with arabesque floral designs divided into multilobes marbled panels or partially with the same designs with panel on the face where a landscape or an human figure is portrayed. Particularly the production of vases flourished because these were used for the preservation of honey, which was largely produced in the area.

In the twentieth century, Caltagirone artists began also to produce small figures in polychromatic terracotta representing shepherds, artisans of the different "crafts", brigands, cribs in miniature, or reproducing with the same artisan technique handed in the workshops of the masters from father to son, the splendid majolica of the previous centuries.



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