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Faenza's ceramics

The origins of Faenza's ceramics date back many centuries; today, they are stili very important as an expression of handicraft and industry. In the Middle Ages, the town became an important ceramics production centre, thanks to the nature of its soil, which is rich in day, and to its geographical position. This made it a meeting point between the cultures of Emilia Romagna and Tuscany.
Between the end of the 15th century and the beginning of the 16th century, Faenza's majolica slowly abandons the Gothic motifs that had partially characterised the late medieval production and the first Renaissance period, to acquire more typical ltalian decorations. Later on, thanks to more broad-minded artists and to a closer link between potters and painters, we see the passage from a repertory of heraldic and decorative themes to more personal forms of representation of the human figure, which gave birth to a new style called "istoriato". lts name derives from the ltalian word "storia" (story), as its main topics are scenes taken from mythology, history or painting.
In the second half of the 16'h century, Faenza's potters feel the necessity of changing their style and start the production of the so-called "bianchi" (white ware). Besides usual forms, we can see eccentric objects with a ribbed or pierced shape and a sketched (in ltalian "compendiato") decoration on a white field, which is given the title of "compendiario". The fame of these products was such that, since then, majolica is called Faience world-wide.
From the end of the 17th century, the Ferniani Family created an innovative centre for new styles and technologies, such as "petit feu" (or third firing) and terraglia (cream ware), a new ceramic product invented in England. Since 1778, terraglia was used by skilled sculptors such as Giulio Tomba and Antonio Trentanove to create sculptures with mythological subjects.
At the end of the century, new delicate decorations such as vine leaves, festoons and acorns appear on table service vessels, together with new forms whose simple lines reveal the passage to Neoclassical themes.
During the 19'h century, we see the re-introduction of the old masters' techniques and the re-evaluation of classica! themes of 16th century majolica, in particular the Raphaelesque decoration.

Artistic handicraft

The timeless beauty of artistic handicraft (particularly ceramic) of Faenza inspires an appreciation of tradition and history and a love of art in all its forms.
At the beginining of the 20th century, the town strongly committed itself to giving greater focus to ceramics, which since the second half of the 19th century had suffered a period of intense crisis. This increased attention to applied arts and handicraft began in 1908 with agreat exhibition, the "Esposizione Torricelliana". lt was organised to celebrate the third centennial of the birth of the illustrious Evangelista Torricelli and aimed to restore the town to its position of a cultural, economic and artistic centre.
The event followed the style of the Great Art and Handicraft lnternational Exhibits, organised by the main European capitals during the second half of the 19th century.
The large ceramic section displayed on this important occasion was used in the same year as the first collection of the new-born lnternational Museum of Ceramics. In 1913 the journal "Faenza" was founded and is stili one of the most authoritative journals on the subject in the international arena.
The interest in "applied arts", stimulated by the various exhibitions and events that took piace at the beginning of this century, started a process of formai, decorative and technical renewal (from the Minardi Family production to Achille Calzi, Zoli and Melandri).
In Faenza, this process involved ceramics and various sectors of local handicraft, from wrought iron to furniture. The renowned Casalini cabinetmakers boasted a long tradition in handicrafts, thanks to the work of their skilled carvers and inlayers combined with the collaboration of several artists.
In this lively context the "Istituto Statale d'Arte per la Ceramica", the renowned High School for Artistic Ceramics, has been playing a fundamental role since its foundation in 1916. By training several generations of potters and artists, it contributed to the progressive renewal of artistic and industriai production which has always characterised the areas of Faenza and Sassuolo.
Small "botteghe" (workshops), many of which are in the town centre, stili characterise Faenza 's ceramic industry. Here, potters stili create ceramic art by hand, choosing distinctive traditional motifs.
The high level of technical expertise of local artisans, together with a refined taste, has strengthened the ceramic tradition and allowed many of Faenza 's artists to establish important relationships with the market, the industry and the area of industriai design.
Tourists who visit the town and its surroundings can admire and purchase the unique objects produced by the 60 "botteghe" and the several art studios of the town.
Faenza's potters produce a variety of handmade objects, for practical use or decoration, as well as sculptures and other objects of industriai design.
The styles used to decorate Faenza's ceramics are inspired by ancients patterns used by Faenza's potters throughout history. They are conventionally divided into Families.
The most widespread families are the "Stile Arcaico", dating back to the Medieval period, and the "Stile Severo", dating back to Renaissance. They are characterised by the so-called decorations "a occhio di penna di pavone" (peacock feather) and the famous portraits of the "Belle Donne" (beautiful women).
Ceramics produced in the first half of the 16th century show the beautiful decorations of the "lstoriato" and of the "Stile Bello", a sophisticated range of designs inspired by the paintings of Raphael and by the Renaissance engravings. Thanks to the skills of contemporary potters we are stili able to appreciate these elegant handmade objects.
The "Stile Compendiario" (white ware) has been a characteristic of Faenza's style for about a hundred years (from the second half of the 16th century to the second half of the 17th century). Thanks to its fame, the town became internationally renowned for its ceramic production.
The "Stile Berettino", characterised by a light blue glaze called "berettino" and used during the first half of the 16th century, is another decoration that inspires contemporary artisans, while the orientai decoration called "a garofano" (carnation) was introduced during the 18th century and is nowadays the most commonly produced.
An oval ceramic plate placed on the façade of buildings marks the various workshops and guides visitors through a fascinating tour of Faenza's ceramic production. The plate has a symbolic decoration of two interlacing hands. This decoration was inspired by the "coppe amatorie", small ceramic plates and jugs used at the beginning of the 16th century and offered as gifts for betrothals and weddings.
Amongst the most important organisations that support the various sectors of ceramics is the Ente Ceramica Faenza, founded in 1977.
This organisation is a reference point for potters and aims to renew and highlight the tradition of ceramics, its promotion and the quality control of ali handicraft and
artistic components. lt also promotes "Estate Ceramica", held in the town centre from June to October, during which potters display and sell their products. The first weekend of September is dedicated to the traditional "Mondial Tornianti", an international competition for Masters of the Potter's Wheel.
For Faenza's potters, "Estate Ceramica" is an excellent occasion to exhibit and sell their handmade objects. lt is a temporary exhibition open to the public and is a promotional centre for ceramics where the best of Faenza's handicraft and arts is displayed and sold.

Faenza is inside   The European Route of Ceramics - The European Route of Ceramics is a Cultural route certified by the Council of Europe since 2012 and it aims at giving value to the cultural heritage linked to the production of ceramics and its old tradition, creating a sustainable and competitive tourism offer not only based on the artistic productions and collections (workshops and museums), but also on the whole cultural and social development that these destinations have lived over the years.

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