The Ceramics and Majolica Collection, Madama Palace

The exhibition Italy of the ceramics and majolica, presents an exceptional set of ceramics and majolica produced by the most prestigious Italian manufactures, bringing together the masterpieces from private collections of Palazzo Madama.

The exhibition opens in the Camera delle Guardie with a large showcase, which evokes the protagonist furniture of the Renaissance dining room, the sideboard, where the refined majolica was exhibited both to be admired and to serve the table equipment. Then you enter the Sala del Senato where the route winds through the main majolica production centers in Italy, such as Deruta, Faenza, Urbino, Gubbio, Venice, Castelli and Turin, and focuses on the characteristics of the decoration and the main artists, including which Nicola da Urbino and Francesco Xanto Avelli.

The exhibition continues by illustrating the wide variety of themes reproduced on the historiated majolica, which, in addition to religious subjects, sees profane subjects richly represented, drawn from ancient history and mythology, or concerning affective life, such as love themes, or status social responsibility of clients, such as heraldic services. The graphic sources of this painting of stories derive from the repertoires of engravings that circulated in the workshops of majolica and which were the means to reproduce on a small scale and for a domestic vision the most famous inventions of the great painters of the time.

The use of ceramics and majolica in social life widened and differentiated. In the furnishing of the Italian house, especially in country residences,the historiated majolica was displayed on the sideboards but also used on the tables and could be offered as gifts on occasions such as marriage and birth. Small sculptures, which sometimes masked the function of inkwells or fountains, were used for decorative purposes in private interiors. Particularly flourishing became the use of majolica in pharmacy kits, generally commissioned by religious institutions.

The journey ends with a series of masterpieces, placed in individual display cases: a pair of Domenigo da Venice albarelli, a large Urbino cooler and the Medici porcelain jug of Palazzo Madama, an exceptional example of the first European imitation of Chinese porcelain, made by majolica from Urbino who worked in Florence at the court of Francesco I de ‘Medici.

Ceramics and majolica is among the few Renaissance art forms that have perfectly preserved the original colors of when they were made. The technique consists of coating the surface of terracotta objects with an opaque white tin-based enamel and painting them with metal oxides, which change to bright colors after firing: from cobalt we get blue, from copper green, from iron orange or ocher, antimony yellow, manganese purple or brown and tin white. It has distant Islamic origins and came to Europe with the Muslim conquestof the Iberian Peninsula in the 8th century, embellished with luster, which made it possible to obtain the color of gold or ruby ​​with iridescent or iridescent shades. Hispano-Moorish earthenware, successfully exported all over Europe, influenced the development of ceramic art in Italy, practiced in numerous centers in Tuscany, Emilia, Marche and Umbria. With great inventiveness the Italian ceramicists innovated the Islamic tradition by contaminating it with motifs inspired by the Gothic and Renaissance repertoire and others deriving from Chinese porcelain.

The ceramics and majolica Collection in general is a domestic artItalian ceramic painters loved to draw women: plates and pottery portrayed them in profile as in medals, accompanied by high-sounding names and adjectives such as ‘bella’, ‘diva’ and ‘graceful’. They were stylistic elements copied from the poetic tradition, stilnovist first and then Petrarchesque. In many ways, ceramics and majolica introduces us more intimately into Renaissance private life; this demonstrates to art history scholars and enthusiasts how serious this artistic expression is, it is not just about decorating an object. The beauty of the stories told will strike many visitors in a surprising way.

The paintings on ceramics and majolica inform posterity of the intellectual and artistic tendencies of the medium-cultural society, of its perception of the ancient world and of classical literature.

The Collection is an interesting opportunity to admire the natural arrangement of Renaissance colors, since the original, unrestored shades remained “as if they left the shop”. The excellent state of conservation depends on the technique, to coat the terracotta with an opaque white tin-based glaze and to paint on it with metal oxides that change the colors after firing (from cobalt we get blue, from copper green, iron orange or ocher, and so on).

The absolute novelty, born in the workshops of Italian ceramists, was the historiato, or the colorful painting of stories over the white surface of the ceramic. The representation in majolicathemes of sacred and profane history, religious, mythological, amorous, with the aim of adorning the stately home is, in fact, a typically Italian peculiarity, which has developed since the end of the 1400s especially in cities of central Italy, such as Pesaro, Deruta, Faenza, Gubbio, Casteldurante and Urbino. Historiated majolica, while representing only a minimal part of Italian ceramic production, has been preserved over time thanks to its prestige and the interest it has been able to arouse in collectors of all ages.

Highlights works

The civilization of the courts.

The Medieval Banquet Table
The princely table was decorated with precious materials and richly decorated objects

Bowl with d’Orlier crest (1475 – 1500)
by Manises

Basin with crests and profane scenes (1275 – 1300)
by Limoges
The decoration of this piece is well suited to a profane use: in the center stands the coat of arms of the Plantagenets (king of England in the Middle Ages)

Aquamanile in the form of a lion (1390 – 1400)
by Lower Saxony
The aquamarines were used to pour water on the hands of the guests.

Italian excellence

The Cinquecento Table
The sixteenth century was the century of majolica, produced in numerous Italian centers of excellence, including Faenza, Venice, Deruta, Gubbio, Casteldurante and Urbino

Dish with the crest of Anna d’Alençon, Marquise… (1508 – 1530)
by Murano or Altare (Savona)
Among the glass “services”, generally commissioned to Murano glass workshops, the one made in the first third of the century for Anna d’Alençon stands out

Cup with Salviati crest (1531)
by workshop of Pietro Bergantini
Flask with Neptune and sea divinities (c. 1535)
by Workshop of Guido Durandino
Bowl, perforated, with the figure of young fowler (1577)
by studio of Francesco Durantino

The charm of the Orient

The Seventeenth-Century Table
Kraak-porcelain-type dish (1573 – 1619)
by China, Ming dynasty, Wanli period
Dish with “calligraphic-naturalistic” decoration (1650)
by Regio Parco factory,
Dish with the crest of Eugene of Savoy (1720 – 1725)
by China, Qing dynasty

The luxury of porcelain

Tureen (1735)
by Du Paquier period
Bouillon bowl with lid and saucer (1735)
by du Paquier Manufacturing
Dessert basket (1735)
by du Paquier period, Wien

Return to order

The Nineteenth-Century Table (1800 – 1806)
by Naples, Real Fabbrica Ferdinandea
Dinner service with animals and lilac band (1800 – 1806)
by Real Fabbrica Ferdinandea

Color and Design
We are for the colored house because we love light, because we have a sincere taste for bright and strong things, and because we no longer love a color but the colors.
– Gio Ponti

Madama Palace
Palazzo Madama and Casaforte degli Acaja is an architectural and historical complex located in the central Piazza Castello in Turin. Having played a leading role in its history from Roman times through to the present day, it was declared a World Heritage Site with the other Residences of the House of Savoy in 1997. Palazzo Madama, as part of the Savoy Residences serial site. The building houses the Civic Museum of Ancient Art.

It is a combination of two thousand years of Turin ‘s history, from the ancient eastern gate of the Roman colony of Julia Augusta Taurinorum to a defensive stronghold, then to a real castle, a symbol of Savoy power until at least the sixteenth century, when the current Royal Palace, as the seat of the Duke of Savoy.

The western part of the first medieval complex was later called Palazzo Madama because it was first inhabited by Madama Cristina of Bourbon-France, called the “first Royal Madama”, in the period around 1620 – 1663, then fromMaria Giovanna Battista di Savoia-Nemours, called the “second Royal Madama”, in the period 1666 – 1724. It was for the latter that the current facade was designed, in 1716 – 1718, by the court architect Filippo Juvarra.

The visit covers four floors, where the centuries-old story of its construction interacts with the collections of the Museo Civico d’Arte Antica, which have been here since 1934.

The early centuries of the Middle Ages are illustrated in the Mediaeval Stonework Collection on the moat level, with its sculptures, mosaics, and jewellery dating from the Later Antique period to the Romanesque. The fifteenth-century rooms on the ground floor contain paintings, sculptures, miniatures and precious objects from the thirteenth to the sixteenth century, mainly from Piedmont. In the circular room in the Treasure Tower there is a selection of masterpieces, including the famous Portrait of a Man by Antonello da Messina. On the piano nobile, with its stunning array of Baroque stuccoes and frescoes, there is the modern picture gallery with works from the Savoy Collections and an important selection of furniture made by Piedmontese, Italian, and French master cabinetmakers. Lastly, the top floor houses the decorative arts collections, which are a key part of the museum’s assets, with majolica and porcelain, glasswork and ivories, fabrics and lace, jewellery and metals, as well as the stunning collection of gilded, painted and sgraffito glass, unrivalled in terms of its quantity and quality.