21 October, 2019
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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

Deruta belongs to the Club de
I Borghi Più Belli d’Italia

 


In the development of Italian historical villages, it is known that, from simple fortresses on communication channels, they have become commercial intersections, often specialized in particular productions. At that time, the difference between artists and craftsmen was rather fleeting; a judgment on the relevance of some arts – such as painting and sculpture -, rather than on others, would only come into the Sixteenth Century, generating a hierarchy in craftmanship.


But looking at Deruta at its decorations, friezes, and ceramic inserts – often you do not catch the difference between art and crafts. Just take a walk through the streets of that small town to realize how ceramics are pervasive of these contrada, and how art has turned into a craft not because of its inferiority, compared to “noble” disciplines such as painting and sculpture, but for its popularity.

Streets of Technique

The southern part of this city, which oversees Tiber River, is dominated by a star which, stuck in the ground like a meteorite fell from the sky, is depicted with a female figure. Made by the students of the International School of Ceramic Art Romano Ranieri, it ushers via Tiberina, framed by full-coloured prunus, where numerous side streets with evocative names open, witnessing an old tradition, where specialization was such to generate even professional secrets. .

Artwork by the International Ceramics School Romano Ranieri, Deruta

The series of streets intersecting a few meters from the freeway relates to the different phases of ceramic’s production, that characterize Deruta. Via dei Fornaciai (who works at the klin), dei Tornianti (who uses the lathe), dei Modellatori (blow molds) e degli Stampatori (printers), but also dei Pittori (painters) e dei Decoratori (decorators), refer to the processing of the raw material – clay, whom a street is dedicated in the northern part of the town – first kneaded so that air bubbles and the compactness do not cause cracks on the finished product, and then moulded. Depending on the complexity and the features of the product, there will be used the colombino modeling – for cups – plates or molded modelling – mainly for plates – or lathe – for pots, lamps or even plain dishes.

City decorations, Deruta

To Tornianti has been dedicated an entire road because using the lathe – especially the one with pedals meant to be highly qualified: the object had to be created from a single piece of clay, which meant that the artisan had to be able to predict how much of it he had to take to give birth to a certain object with a certain shape and with a certain thickness. The hardest part was to keep the lathe’s rotation speed constant, in order to grant the artisan the time to shape the material, to carve it, to stretch and twist it, to give it balanced and tapered proportions. The diffusion of the electric lathes has make little difference: torniante is a difficult and highly specialized job, as the printer’s one, which must be able to create a chalk mold, single or even multiple, to reproduce a prototype, obviously without breaking the artifact at the time of detachment.

Famous Labels

The little fournace in the kiosk of the Ceramics Museum, Deruta

Keep on walking, via dei Decoratori comes to a city quarter whose streets are dedicated to famous personalities who have written the history of Deruta.  
Via Francesco Briganti is the first: he was notary from Deruta founded in 1898 the Ceramic Museum by donating pieces of his property, but, most of all, he directed the historical-philological research towards the creation of workshops for artisans. At the Municipal Art Gallery of Deruta, however, there are about forty works by another philanthropist, Lione Pascoli, who, passionate about collecting, had succeeded in gathering three hundred works of minor art, including still life, battles and bambocciate. The road dedicated to him intersects with the one named after one of the greatest promoters of the ceramics of the early Twentieth Century: Alpinolo Magnini, to whom is dedicated also the local art school, first donated watercolor drawings and ancient majolica to the Museum, then refurbished the luster-style raffaellesco basing on an ancient recipe. Magnini was also the technical and artistic director of the Anonima Ceramiche Society, the Deruta Maioliche Society and the CIMA – Italian Consortium of Artistic Majolica; however, to admire these buildings, it is necessary to climb along the narrow streets of the oldest hamlet. So, from via Magnini we turn right and cross via Nicolò di Liberatore, better known as L’Alunno because of a mistake made by Vasari: he interpreted the inscription alumnus funginie as a nickname, but it only stated that the painter was born in Foligno. Anyway, the painter Nicolò di Liberatore, famous for his realistic heads, is the only artist belonging to the Umbrian Renaissance to be mentioned by the famous artists’ biographer. Together with his father-in-law, he depicted Madonna dei Consoli in 1458, now kept at the Municipal Art Gallery of Deruta.

St. Francis Church from Ceramics Museum, Deruta

Going further and passing under the old suspended traffic light that characterizes the district called borgo – by the name of the road that cut it in half, via Borgo Garibaldi, framed by trees and by a wall glazed by arabesque decorations and tiles by local artisanson the left there is a majestic staircase: it oversees the entire landscape below, then it squeezes under an arc embellished with decorated dishes and pitchers embedded in the stone.

One of the gateways

Looking up, loquats hang over terraces placed even higher: this is a distinctive feature of Deruta, where buildings’ irregularity and asymmetry matches with the countless levels of urban fabric, sometimes difficult even to guess. 
However, walking between narrow and steep streets, often with a dead end, it is possible to find historic buildings and others with a rather folkloristic appearance: it is the case of the Anonima Maioliche Society aforementioned, featuring an elegant Liberty style entrance that opens between ordinary buildings, but it is affected by the negligence and temperature leaps.

Ancient Furnace’s walls, Deruta

Actually majolica is prone to fractures and detachments once displayed to weather. Decorated front doors and façades dotted with women’s figures lead us to the type of building, the most characteristic one. Among all the furnaces scattered in the urban fabric, certainly the ancient one is a building with picturesque, often grotesque features, composed as it is from recycled ceramic squama. The sloping exterior walls are covered with tiles, plates, lids, or even simple fragments, giving to it the appearance of a burlesque fortress.

Detail of the Ancient Furnace’s exterior walls

It is difficult to look away from the countless fragments, but via El FrateGiacomo Mancini’s nickname, another great painter of cups and dishes based on Ovid’s Metamorphoses (Sixteenth Century) – is waiting for us. After a short climb, we arrive at the High School Alpinolo Magnini, embellished with a characteristic frieze. Facing it, Piazza dei Consoli, with the stretched shape of an avenue, where Palio della Brocca is awarded every year. The scarlet City Hall and St. Francis Church, restored with the local dark stone, open to a quiet giant that seems to cradle the square, especially in the terminal part, where spaces diminish and squeeze. This junction is particularly beautiful: unlike Central Italy’s typical churches, Deruta’s main religious building has a somewhat stealthily entrance, set in a rather narrow and far street compared to the wide Piazza dei Consoli. This shady road also leads to the placid cloister of the Ceramic Museum, where there is a small kiln and a shady live oak.

Precious Materials

We reluctantly leave the complex’s quiet walls to go downhill; we cross an amazing public garden, a sort of balcony on Deruta where even the benches and the fountain are decorated with the local arabesques. An almost infinite series of staircases allows us to descend through the hamlet’s countless levels, until via Fratelli Maturanzio, a couple of Sixteenth Century artists whose memory is now lost in time. 

Decorated benches, Deruta

At the end of the slope, there is the Church of Madonna delle Piagge, which, after a few hundred meters, leaves space to two significant streets: via Verde Ramina and via della Zaffera. The first, along with the manganese brown, is the colour of archaic ceramics, characterized by geometric, floral or zoo-anthropomorphic motifs; the second one, had been named after the sapphire, that is to say the blue colour that, during cooking, swelled, returning herbal motifs, emblems and fantastic creatures in relief. 
It is important to understand the processing of biscotto’s decoration, that is to say of the object obtained after the first cooking, because at this stage the colours change. After being enamelled and decorated, the piece is cooked again, so that the colours could vetrify and take on their actual shades: green ramina from black becomes pale green, while blue is still the same, even if at high temperatures the cobalt oxide could melt, eliminating the decorum.

A glimpse of Deruta from via El Frate

There are also other kind of decorations, as evidenced by the streets that unwinds in the northern part of Deruta: via del Mosaico (mosaic), often gilded in real gold, via del Riflesso (glare), via dei Lustri (luster) – of which the innovator was the aforementioned Alpinolo Magnini – via del Raku, just to mention overseas ceramic traditions, via dell’Arabesco (arabesque), via del Raffaellesco (Raphael-style) and via dell’Engobbio (engobe), which could be associated to via del Bianchetto (whitening). The latter two are closely related techniques: the whiting is the other name of the half-majolica, and it consists in covering the object with the engobe, a layer of liquid and white clay, then to be decorated or carved. This processing was adopted when biscotto cooking was not used and tin-based enamel was too expensive. The cooking was only done once, after the object had been covered with a thin transparent layer. 
The presence of via dell’Argilla (clay) is relevant: it scrambles towards the still untouched hills that look behind it. It is not difficult to imagine generations of ceramists finding the raw material on the slopes of these uplands, as well as in the alluvial deposits of the great Tiber River that runs a little below.

 

More on Deruta

Is there a way to make an ethical journey and in great harmony with the places: is hot air balloon.

 

Peter Kollar is a Hungarian balloon pilot who has lived for a long time in New Zealand and four years ago came among the rolling hills between Bevagna and Assisi. He takes care of its passengers by involving them in a unique and totalizing experience. It all starts six o’clock in the morning, with clear weather and the moderate winds. The departure from Cantina Dionigi with a minibus service that leads to the nearby runway. The crew gets ready for the inflation operation, with industrial fans that produce the wind, we witness the rebirth of the huge orange ball that seems to wake up with the sun.

Time slowly flows

High, Swells and full of people is ready for takeoff. Light up the burners and slowly rises. At that moment you realize the magic that pervades all around, is silence, it is slow. Nature comes and embraces the enormous balloon, indicates the route heading towards Assisi, sometimes you can see Lake Trasimeno, with a sudden change of scenery and colors. Suspended, is flying over the vast expanses of wheat and then the yellow sunflowers, olive groves and grape vines. A panoramic trip that, like a flashback, back to origins. In that time the silence is the master, while the voracious glances collect everything that happens down below trying to interpret every detail. It ‘s all so slow that you forget the time that passes and, while you goes down on the first field not cultivated, identified by the pilot, you find the protagonist of that landscape Once landed, the minibus waiting and you reach the winery where you started.

A prepared Banquet

The experience continues, does not stop there. To wait, in the winery, a table full of delicious scents and flavors from the typical products of these areas and accompanied by excellent wine made right here. In the eyes again those overflown landscapes, which are in the flavors, all the earth just across. In some cases, especially in the most exclusive events, breakfast is served outdoors, in the nearby church of Madonna Pia with cloths woven by artisans of Montefalco and Deruta ceramics decorated by hand. The season from May to September it has a range of colors so rich that every trip is different, nature gives emotions and the traveler will feel part of the environment, outside the contemporary, almost like being part of an old painting.

 

 

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arte liberty in umbria

Title: Il Liberty in Umbria.

Architettura – Pittura- Scultura e Arti decorative. Architecture – Painting – Sculpture and Decorative Arts

Scholar: Maurizio Bigio

Publisher: Fabrizio Fabbri

Date of publication: 2016

ISBN: 97888677806886

Features: 231 p., photos 28 x 24.5cm, numerous colour photographs, stapled illustrated paperback.

Price: € 35,00

 

«This publication has been created from the interest I have always had for the arts in general, in particular for painting, sculpture, architecture and photography. I have always been interested in beautiful things.»

This is how Maurizio Bigio, a graduate in Business and Economics, and a Chartered Accountant for the last 37 years, speaks of his latest enterprise “in the field of the arts”. This is not a new departure for him, as he has always been involved in the arts as a musician, having had important achievements in collaborating with major singer-songwriters of the Seventies and issuing the Rock Bigio Blues LP. He recently expanded his artistic horizons devoting himself to photography, collaborating in the creation of the new MUSA (Museum of the Academy of Fine Arts P. Vannucci of Perugia) catalogue edited by Fedora Boco and the book on Ferdinand Cesaroni edited by Luciano Giacchè.

The Author

The subject of Liberty in the Umbrian region previously had only been addressed by Professor Mario Pitzurra, when in 1995 he published Architettura e ornato urbano liberty a Perugia, a text which is now out of print and, according to the author, it was limited to the regional capital city area. It was Pitzurra himself who concluded his work with the hope that «…others will follow my example, possibly extending their study to the rest of Umbria.»

And now, twenty years on, Maurizio Bigio takes up the challenge with purpose of re-awakening interest in this XX century art movement, which has been little studied in the region.

Topic

The foreword to Il Liberty in Umbria, is written by Anton Carlo Ponti with the text edited by Federica Boco, Emanuela Cecconelli, Giuliano Macchia, Maria Luisa Martella, Elena Pottini and Mino Valeri as well as Bigio himself.

The publication is divided into sixteen chapters, encompassing the region from north to south, touching on the city of Città di Castello, Perugia, Marsciano, Deruta, Foligno, Spoleto, Terni, Allerona, Avigliano, Acquasparta and Narni.

The Publication

And the author’s interest is not just in architecture, he also focuses on the decorative details in wood, wrought iron, ceramics, glass and, where possible, on the internal painted decoration inside dwellings.

An interesting chapter, edited by Elena Pottini, is devoted to liberty sculptures in the Perugia Cemetery, while Fedora Boco outlines the protagonists of this period with a small biography and related bibliography. The photographs also include Liberty design lost in time such as the Perugina shop and the internal decor of the Bar Milano. This interesting volume also includes a translation of the text in English by Eric Ingaldson.