Polychrome maiolica pitcher. Pavia, 1693 -1704

Versatoio di maiolica policroma
Maiolica and Porcelain

Painted by Siro Antonio Africa or Siro Domenico Africa at the Rampini manufactory in Pavia, 1693 -1704

It measures:
11.02 in (28.5) in height x 6.49 in (16.5 cm) in diameter.
Weight: 1.68 lb (766 g)
State of conservation:
intact with slight edge chipping

Versatoio di maiolica policroma

The pitcher has a shape inspired by metal models.
The mouth is narrow with a protruding (almond-shaped) beak bearing a rounded edge. Under this, there is a mask-shaped relief. The handle is mixtilinear with overlapping spirals; it develops upwards and then arches down to the point of maximum protrusion. The body starts from the high cylindrical neck, widens into a globular belly and then tapers into a high calyx foot with a rounded and concave base.
In the front part, under the mouthpiece, there is a painted medallion which depicts a landscape with ruins. The rest of the surface is decorated with flowered racemes outlined in manganese brown and cobalt blue. This extends to the foot where the same decoration is repeated in a monochromatic version in manganese; the handle is also covered in the same color.
The molded shape is unusual and very elegant. Some similarly shaped but smaller specimens are often less vividly decorated. A very similar model bearing the Lombard family coat of arms Stampa Soncino and the brand of the Rampini manufacture under the foot is preserved in the collections of Arti Applicate of the Castello Sforzesco in Milan. (R. Ausenda (a cura di), Musei e Gallerie di Milano. Museo d’Arti Applicate. Le ceramiche. Tomo secondo, Milano 2000, p. 109-110, n. 119).
A pitcher with similar decoration – but without the dual color scheme of the racemes – is preserved in the collection Roudnice Lobkowicz in Prague. (E. Pelizzoni – M. Forni – S. Nepoti, La maiolica di Pavia tra Seicento e Settecento, Milano 1997, p. 85, n. 54).

The work belongs to an important ceramic class – characterized by the “subtlety of the material” – produced between the 17th and 18th centuries and definitively identified as Pavia manufacture thanks to a study of archaeological material and an analysis of documentary sources by E. Pelizzoni, M. Forni and S. Nepoti; for more than a century, in fact, this maiolica production had been attributed by mistake to a Venetian factory in Angarano, near Bassano del Grappa.
The identification, in 1993, of the factories in Pavia of Imbres and Rampini and the artistic contribution of the painters of the Africa family, all operating in the latter half of the seventeenth century and in the first thirty years of the eighteenth century, constitute one of the most interesting chapters in the history of ceramic research.
In the last decades of the seventeenth century, in Pavia, Carlo Giuseppe Rampini and Antonio Francesco Imbres “risked their fortunes” to found two factories for the production of maiolica. Works coming from here can be readily identified: the former by the brand “CGR” associated with a grapnel and the latter by the brand “GI”.
Later the brands exhibited some variation (palm leaves, the letters CGR in monogram, etc.) and by the association with the letters “AF” in monogram, to identify the work of the Africa family of painters, used alternately, in fierce competition, in both manufacturers.
The works of the Africa painters, descendants of Siro Antonio Africa and of his nephew Siro Domenico, are characterized by landscapes composed of grandiose architectural ruins, noble coats of arms, mythological or sacred figures. The ornaments are painted with great technical skill on complex shapes borrowed from silverware and characterized by an airy, thin and light material that makes them recognizable even in the absence of the manufacturing brand.
The two factories continued to operate successfully until the advent of the new fashion for French decorations which led them to hand over the scepter of the production of the new decorations, “ferroneries” and “lambrequins”, first to the nearby Lodi factories and then to those in Turin, thanks to the entrepreneurial wisdom of Giorgio Giacinto Rossetti.
The works from Pavia, for a long time among the most sought-after objects for cultured ceramic collections, are still exhibited in large Italian and foreign museum collections: the Museo Correr in Venezia, Palazzo Madama-Museo Civico d’Arte Antica in Torino, the Museo di Arti Applicate del Castello Sforzesco in Milano, the Pinacoteca in Varallo, il British Museum in London and others.

Cover Photo: Fabrizio Stipari


E. Pelizzoni – M. Forni – S. Nepoti, La maiolica di Pavia tra Seicento e Settecento, Milano 1997;
R. Ausenda (a cura di), Musei e Gallerie di Milano. Museo d’Arti Applicate. Le ceramiche. Tomo secondo, Milano 2000, p. 109-110, n. 119;
Per i grandi vasi e per la storia degli studi: C. Maritano, “Emanuele d’Azeglio, collezionista a Londra”, in G. Romano, a cura di, Diplomazia, musei, collezionismo tra il Piemonte e l’Europa negli anni del Risorgimento, Torino (Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio di Torino) 2011, pp. 37-117;
G. Anversa, La Collezione Francesco Franchi e la donazione alla Pinacoteca di Varallo Sesia, Borgosesia, 2004;
D. Thornton, T. Wilson, 2009, Italian Renaissance Ceramics: a catalogue of the British Museum collection, London, 2009, n. 350.

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