Collections from Italy: Murano glass and Majolica ceramics

The vast number of antiques and art collectors interested in the collecting category of Italian objects is ever growing. Want to add a taste of spicy Italy to your home décor? Consider collecting Murano glass and ceramic majolica.

Murano glass is the age-old glassware made in the glass furnaces of Venice. Amid the gondolas and beautiful architecture and fine art museums, Italian glassware is highly collectible and very, very valuable. Designs date back to the mid 1200s AD and spark interest with collectors of Murano glass. Colorful objects, display pieces, chandeliers, and works of art comprise the history of the glassmaking center of Murano.  Display chargers command as much as $3,000 for serious collectors and custom made glass pieces from Murano cost upwards of several thousands of dollars.

Like the famous glassware from Murano, ceramics have a long history in the realm of Italian collectibles, too. Majolica is a soft, earthenware ceramic that is often associated with its southern European background. Shipped from the port of Majorca, the site where this style of earthenware got its name, the tin glazed ceramics were deemed “maiolica” or “majolica” wares. A pottery enhanced with tin and lead glazes, majolica came of age during the Renaissance 1400s-1500s. With great market success, the process of producing tin glazed earthenware ceramics quickly expanded to other countries around the world.

Based on Renaissance designs, Florentine-inspired majolica looked to early masters of art history like Botticelli, Luca della Robbia, and Fra Angelico for inspiration. Today, majolica pieces range in value from $350 to $1,000 for decorated tableware and major figural teapots and garden sculptures commanding prices into the tens of thousands of dollars.

By the 1700s, a ceramist named Bernard Palissy reformulated the Renaissance tin glazes and produced functional objects decorated with subjects such as marine life, fruits, and flowers. Called Palissyware, these majolica pieces became a big hit with the high socialites of the time. In the late 19th Century when the Renaissance Revival was in full swing in architecture and furniture design, majolica followed the classically inspired trend.

Today, majolica is collected for its textural appearance, colorful body, and fascinating forms. Majolica objects regularly relate to the seasonal nature which is popular with collectors. Majolica pieces are often found in the manner of autumn hunting or game subjects, in the shape of sea creatures for holiday feasts, delicate flowers abundant in spring and luscious, bulbous summer fruit forms. Of course, Tuscany’s favorite sunflowers are commonly found in antique and vintage majolica wares. These tin and lead glazed ceramics remind today’s collectors of the idea of abundance as they recall the Renaissance interest in presenting guests with a plentiful and visually appealing meal.

Art & Antiques by Dr. Lori


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