The tin-glazed earthenware known as majolica (or maiolica) was first produced in Italy in the mid-14th century. Beautiful and colorful, it has always been prized as a decoration that never fades or loses its beauty. By the 16th century, majolica painters were imitating famous frescos and oil paintings depicting scenes from classical history, the Bible and mythology. When the Golden House of Nero in Rome was rediscovered, the elaborate, whimsical motifs found on its underground chambers were also used as subject matters. These designs were called grottesche (grotesques).
Over the centuries the demand for majolica has had its ups and downs. By the 17th century it was in decline, and the styles based on Renaissance motifs were replaced by those that were then in fashion. By the 18th century, majolica faced greater competition from French and German faience, Asian and European porcelain, and English creamware. By the 1850s only a handful of Italian majolica workshops were still in existence, but by the end of the 19th century a movement was started to re-establish the ware’s design and production.
This is a piece of Italian majolica that makes you want to collect these colorful and beautifully painted pieces. Of course, the three putti frolicking on a beach with the water and mountainous backdrop make for a wonderful and delightful piece of art. The painting was done in the traditional style of the time with naturalistic colors for the landscape. The scene continues all around the vase, which is a trademark of Italian majolica of the period.
The vase is footed with a bulbous shape and a narrow top rim. The landscape is rich in rocks, shrubs, and ferns with small pieces of fencing included here and there. There is a gnarled tree trunk that makes a statement on one side of the vase. One of the putti is pulling on the hair of another, while the third looks on. The painting of the putti is naturalistic, standing out against the blues and browns of the landscape.
The glaze on this vase has remained in fabulous condition and has protected the painting beneath it for over 200 years. The inside of the vase is also glazed. The satiny feel of the glaze was made to be touched, making it that much more incredible that the piece has survived from the 19th century. This is one of several pieces of majolica that I obtained from the collection of majolica of a European noble family.
The overall condition of the vase is superb for its age and function. There is one very old chip to the base that is visible when looking at it. There are some minor old nibbles on the foot near this chip, but they are more felt than seen as they are on the bottom edge. There is some expected wear to the glaze around the inside edge of the vase.
This is a gorgeous example of antique pottery from the collection of a European nobleman. It is even more impressive in person than I can try to illustrate with my photos.
It measures 7 inches high and is about 6 inches in diameter at its widest point.