spelled Maiolica in Italian, the tin-oxide-glazed, painted
earthenware pottery of Italy, reached a summit of artistic quality
during the late 15th and early 16th centuries.
from the grafting of the Islamic ceramic tradition of tin-glazing
the ancient traditions of native Italian pottery.
occurred early in the 15th century, when sophisticated
Hispano-Moresque wares from Valencia were imitated by Italian
potters. The name majolica is derived from the island of Majorca,
the headquarters of trading vessels sailing between Spanish and
One of the principal Italian centers of majolica
production, the town of Faenza,
later gave its name to the French
term for the ware, faience.
molded or thrown clay piece was given a first, or
"bisque" firing, then covered with an opaque lead- and
tin-oxide glaze. (Leadless glazes are the standard for
contemporary majolica potters, however.) Decorations were painted
on the dry glaze, and a second firing fused both glaze and
decoration to an even, glossy surface. This direct painting
technique led to vigorous designs and novel imagery, producing
some of the most delightful and artistically satisfying creations
in European ceramic history.