Niobe presented on a plate

Nowadays we usually think of Majorca or Spain when we think of Maiolica but in the 16th century it was actually often produced in Italy or France. Urbino was one of places where they produced most Maiolica in the beginning of the 16th century. In particular in the istoriato style. Maiolica meant from the beginning just lusterware from the island Majorca and it came in different forms and shapes, but my favorite is called istoriato style. Majolica had been around even in the 14th and 15th century but only in the beginning of the 16th century they invented istoriato ware.

Istoriato means “painted with stories” and that is exactly what it does. They took a plate or mug or vase and painted it with a biblical, mythological or allegorical story. Even though they used this technique to decorate everyday objects that could fulfill a purpose, like plates or vases, it’s not necessarily what they were used for. They were quite likely to be used just as a decorative object. They were also a status object. Some of those plates are so nice that they are now at display in fancy castles or museums.

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Killing the children of Niobe by Marsia of Milan, 1525-1535, majolica istoriato, originally from Urbino, now in Castello Sforzesco in Milan.

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Apollo killing the children of Niobe, Urbino Majolica istoriato , 1541, Heremitage, St. Peterburg.

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Diana killing the children of Niobe, 1545, Urbino Maiolica istoriato.

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Workshop of Guido di Merlino, Urbino maiolica istoriato, 1548, The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge.


Buona sera amici miei, Hilde


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