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When Shards Become Art

by Alessandra Vittori

Fragments, scraps of broken glass, bones and decorated porcelain. Objects people would think of being nothing but rubbish have been restored, catalogued and are now on display in Casteldilago Museum, in the province of Terni. The exhibition, not by chance, is called Rubbish: tre secoli di ceramiche (Three Centuries of Pottery) have been supervised by Sir Timothy Clifford, British Art historian who, after having directed the Victoria & Albert Department of Pottery, the Department of Prints and Drawings of the British Museum, after having been the Director of the National Galleries of Scotland and Director of Manchester City Art Galleries has spared his time, after retirement, for the fine pottery of this small hilltown in Umbria.

The Discovery

Who found the great deal of everyday objects was Angelo Francucci, a keen local entrepreneur who has dedicated his life to the restoring of Casteldilago since he was fifteen. It was, indeed, during a reconstruction process that Francucci found a butto, an old dump. Originally built for water storage, most likely poisoned, the cistern was turned into the perfect site for dumping food wastes, metal objects, scraps of glass, pottery and animal carcass.

A Wasted Away Treasure

Strongly impressed, the entrepreneur decided to show the butto to the Cliffords, who have a summer holiday home in the town. Timothy became soon aware that he was facing countless, stunning findings datable from the Middle Ages to the 15th century. The Art historian gathered all the bits and assembled the parts as if it were a tiny jigsaw puzzle. The more he went on, the more he was fully conscious of how fine the ceramics were, masterly decorative designs attributed to Deruta. Engaged in his studies, Timothy found out that Deruta belonged to the Diocese of Spoleto to which Casteldilago was part. In the Middle Ages Casteldilago was an important fortress, run by several governors who moved from House to House and, once their mandate was over, it was accustomed for them to throw away what was not needed for their new residence. Decorated coats of arms purport to be those of noble families like the Orsini, the Medici, the Lauri and the Clementini.


A Local Production

Proceeding from the museum showcases, proud of himself, Timothy’s wife, Jane, narrates how they made an even more important discovery. A good deal of ceramic scraps bear the same singular motifs which somewhat meant there was a factory site in Spoleto as well. Timothy found out a document stating an agreement reached between two bankers, a Deruta potter and a Faenza one. Besides that, he found fragments reporting the same decorative designs close by the Amphitheatre and the Palazzo di Spoleto.
To confirm the existence of a pottery factory in Spoleto was Duccio Marignoli, President of The Marignoli di Montecorona Foundation. Sewer works were being carried out when Marignoli found scraps of kiln with the same decorative designs.
Last but not least, bits have been found in the Rocca di Spoleto as well as the Rocca in Narni which confirm the presence of a local craft.


Per prenotare visite al museo:
Durate orario d’ufficio: +39-0744388710
Fuori dall’orario d’ufficio: +39-3357529230

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