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Maiolica plate (tondino)
with noble emblem of the Mazza family of Pesaro
Urbino district, Castel Durante or Pesaro, 1533-1555


Diameter: 7.48 in
foot diameter 2.75 in
Height 1.02 in
Weighs: 0.67 lb

State of conservation:

chipping on edge from use and a slight fêlure

The small plate or “tondino” has a deep well, an oblique border, rounded edge and barely raised ring foot.
The decoration shows, around the edge, a garland of small lanceolate leaves outlined in brown, while the border is richly decorated with the “bianco sopra bianco” (white-on-white) technique. This provides a dense decoration with foliated spirals, outlined in tin white directly on the glaze. Inside the well, in a hilly landscape with the sunset sky, there is a shield framed with the bipartite noble emblem of the Mazza family of Pesaro, surmounted by the letter “M” and flanked by the initials “G” and “P”.
The technique used here in the decoration of the border is widely described by Cipriano Piccolpasso in his text, from around 1557, “Li tre libri dell’arte del vasaio” and referring specifically to an Urbino tradition: in the chapter of the “Sopra bianchi “(“White Above”) the author says “questo è uso urbinate” (“this is Urbino custom”).
Works with this ornament datable to between 1530 and 1555 were actually found in the Urbino district: numerous fragments from the Ducal Palace of Urbania (Castel Durante), while recent finds in Pesaro, along with those in the Ducal Palace of Urbino itself, explain the difficulty in attributing the work more precisely to one workshop in particular.
Piccolpasso himself underlines slight differences between the works of Casteldurante and those of Urbino. More recent studies tend to propose a Pesaro origin for this service, however, as it was produced for an important family of the coastal city. There is a record of the transfer, around 1534, to Pesaro of Giovanni and his brother Bartolommeo, sons of Antonio Mazza, a spice merchant from Rimini. Then we remember a Gasparre Mazza representative of a second generation of the family. It is therefore likely that the service was produced for the house of Giovanni or Gasparre (“G”) Mazza (“M”) for the marriage to a hypothetical “P”, whose identity, for the moment, remains unknown.
Other small plates of the service, of different sizes, are preserved in public and private collections: see for example the sample, without initials, in the Victoria and Albert Museum (C 2262-1910) and the one, still without initials, at the MET in New York. Another one is attested in the Dreyfuss collection in 1967, while an identical plate has recently been published and is kept in a private collection in Genoa.
Some other unpublished plates from the service are known to be in a private collection, testifying to the importance of the Mazza family’s “credenza”.


T. Wilson, The Golden Age of Italian Maiolica Painting, Torino, 2019, pp. 366-368 n. 163 e bibliografia relativa.
Piccolpasso C., I tre libri dell’arte del vasaio, a cura di Giovanni Cecchini, Roma 1963;
R. Gresta, Un piatto con lo stemma Mazza e qualche nota sui soprabianchi, Faenza: bollettino del Museo internazionale delle ceramiche in Faenza: CIII, 1, 2017 p. 46-55;
R. Gresta, P. Bonali, La maiolica pesarese nella seconda metà del Cinquecento, in “Pesaro nell’età dei Della Rovere, vol. III.2 di Historica Pisaurensia”, Collana di studi diretta da Scevola Mariotti, Venezia. pp. 354-355
C. Ravanelli Guidotti, Thesaurus di opere della tradizione di Faenza, Faenza 1998, p. 254.

Cover Photo: Fabrizio Stipari