The word "majolica" (maiolica) is synonymous of faience. It appeared at the end of the fifteenth century, in Italy. The majolica are produced in Italy from the fourteenth to the sixteenth century, then throughout Europe, from the sixteenth century. The term "majolica" comes from Majorca, a city where ceramics transit through the late Middle Ages.
In France, the word majolica refers especially to the Italian faience of the Renaissance; Made by the Italians (Lyon or Nevers) or by French artists according to technique and in the Italian style, such as the primitive faiences of Rouen, Nîmes or Montpellier.
The majolica belongs to the category of earthenware called "decorated with fire on raw enamel". The technique consists of shaping the piece of earth or clay, it is then dipped in an enamel, based on tin. A white and opaque earthenware is obtained. On this raw enamel are affixed, by free hand, metallic oxides. After cooking with a high fire, 800-900 °, the colors and the decoration appear. From the sixteenth century, most of the pieces received a translucent cover, the coperta , which increased the brilliance of the pieces.
The metallic luster takes again the usual technique. A slip (ground finely ground and diluted), based on oxides of silver, copper, vinegar and ocher, is applied by brush to the parts to be polished. After a second cooking in reduction, without oxygen, a thin metallic layer appears giving the pieces a metallic aspect reminiscent of goldsmithery. The Gubbio and Deruta workshops have specialized in these fields. For the decor, the potter uses "clichés". This stencil, placed on the raw enamel, makes it possible to apply to the pad the carbon powder and leaves a trace that guides the brush in order to apply the metallic oxides before a final firing. The varnished pottery, called graffito , uses a red or white earth. There is a slip, then, with a cut point, one proceeds by "removed" on the lines of the drawing to make appear the initial color of the earth.
Some decors :
- A berettino : The decoration is painted on a blue enamel, due to the addition of cobalt, tinted in the mass.
- A calligrafico : plant, animal or oriental motifs are drawn in the same color.
- A candelieri : along a vertical axis, chimeras adorn the rooms.
- A compendiario : the restricted scenery of small blue, yellow, and sometimes green traces, largely reveal the white enamel.
- A fiori / a frutti / a foglie : these decorations combine flowers, fruits and leaves.
- A grottesche : it consists of fantastic figures, also called raffaelesche, from the painter Raphael.
- A istoriato : this decoration illustrates historical scenes from mythology, religion or literature, inspired by the engraved models ...
- Italo-mauresque : Flowers are inserted in a network of blue lines.
- A neighborhood : these are geometric shapes with alternating colors.
- A trofei : it is composed of musical instruments, weapons or trophies of arms.
- Alla porcellana : arabesques and blue flowers are reminiscent of porcelain of China, without having the translucent character.