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History of Deruta Ceramics

Those Familiar with ceramics will have already heard of Deruta. Deruta is one of the biggest producers of glazed Italian ceramic ware known as majolica. Deruta has been producing pottery and ceramics since the 14th century, at which time; Deruta had produced so many ceramics and pottery that it could pay the taxes for the city in vases instead of money. In fact, as early as in 1358 Deruta had exported more than one thousand vases to Assisi, homeland of Saint Francesco. The wealthiest period for Deruta was without any doubt the 16th century, when its artists took part in the artistic and Cultural Revolution of the Renaissance. It is during this period that the famous "Raffaellesco" ornament became a popular, symbol of the Deruta pottery production. The term "raffaellesco" comes from one of the big stars of the Renaissance: Raffaello. At the beginning of the century, Raffaello painted a series of fresco with the decoration of a Loggia in the Vatican and some of its patterns were "grotesque": a fantastic composition of plants, animals and men. Since the main inspirations for these types of decoration were a series of Frescos from Roman caves called "grotte", the term for these compositions became groteschi, or grotesques. These same patterns are used today to produce some of the most beautiful dinnerware available. It is this sense of history that is acquired when we bring a piece of Deruta ceramics into our homes today.

The same plates, bowls, jars and pitchers that were produced in Deruta in the sixteenth century are still being formed and painted by descendents of the families that produced these objects hundreds of years ago. Something about the beauty of the glazes and the patterns applied to these classic forms remains timeless. The standard shapes of centuries ago continue to be useful, whether holding wine or pasta or just a simple arrangement of flowers.

Deruta is in the heart of Italy, in the center of Umbria, located just to the south of Tuscany. The walled town sits atop a hill, overlooking the Tiber valley. The name Deruta probably derives originally from the Latin diruta, or destroyed. Eventually the town became known as Ruta, a shortened form of Deruta as well as the name of a medicinal plant common in the Mediterranean. This round-leafed plant became the symbol of the town and shows up often in its heraldry, even when the town's name settles and becomes, finally, Deruta.

One of the more attractive factors of Deruta pottery is its sense of history. There are more than 300 ceramic firms in Deruta today, making it one of the largest ceramic producers in Italy today. Although production is high in Deruta it is still possible to visit the artists at work in some of the smaller shops. Some companies have given in to the pressure to produce mass quantities of pottery and lost the personalized touch. These pieces are still pretty but lack the personal touch that true art requires. We have elected to forgo these facilities in favor of small family run shops that still make their pieces in the traditional ways. You can still visit the shops of the artists we feature and hope you will if you are ever able to visit Deruta.

Classic patterns such as Raffaellesco, Gallo Verde and Arabesco are painstakingly hand painted by artists who have studied with a master; the techniques and patterns are carefully handed down from one generation to another. Renaissance pieces continue to be emulated, but there is also constant innovation in new designs.

At first glance, there seems more that unites the studios of Deruta than differentiates them. The general reverence for the past is evident in the trio of patterns that appear in almost every shop. Most firms whether they concentrate on one of a kind decorative pieces or simple sets of dinnerware carry some variation of the classic patterns Gallo Verde, Arabasco, Raffaellesco and Ricco Deruta. Differences occur in the quality of materials (glazes and clay) as well as the skill of design and craftsmanship of the finished product. One of the joys of working with an artist is that it is possible to order your dishes in any color variation or pattern of your choosing. If you have a family crest or a special plate you would like to have made, we can accommodate your requests. If you are interested in a special pattern, all your own, please contact us at we will be happy to make your design into a family heirloom.

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