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Work Serving dish bearing the coat of arms of the Gondi family of Florence

Department of Decorative Arts: Renaissance

Plat aux armes des Gondi de Florence

© Musée du Louvre / Martine Beck-Coppola

Decorative Arts
Renaissance

Author(s):
Ducrot B.

The bowl is decorated with the coat of arms of the Gondi family of Florence in the center, ringed by a concentric pattern of fine gilded vine leaves covering the entire white ground. The style of decor and the technique used indicate this item is an example of the celebrated Hispano-Moorish pottery tradition. Lustered earthenware imitates metal tableware and was inspired by an old Islamic tradition that spread from the Middle East to the whole of the Mediterranean basin.

The Gondi family's dinner service

From the 15th century onward, it became customary for great families - particularly in Italy - to order dinner services consisting of several items of fine pottery from Spain. The decoration of such items is always based around the family coat of arms. In this instance, the large saltire azure in an Italian shield, outlined in cobalt blue, has been identified as the arms of Giuliano Gondi (1421-1501), the favorite of the kings of Naples of the House of Aragon. The same arms are found on items in the Musée de Cluny, Paris, the Victoria and Albert Museum and British Museum, London, and the Cambridge Museum in England.

Fabulous decoration

Based around the central heraldic motif, the ornamentation basically consists of the repetition of slender vine leaves in concentric rings over the whole surface. Among the commonest patterns used in Hispano-Moorish pottery, these plant motifs, along with the very similar parsley leaf and bryony flower designs, are found throughout the 15th century. As is often the case with this distinctive and illustrious type of Spanish pottery, the reverse of the bowl is decorated and lustered similarly. A monumental heraldic eagle stands out against a white ground, while the inner wall and the flat rim are decorated with spiral rinceaux alternating with fleurons.

Lustered earthenware

Production of pottery with a metallic sheen, known as lusterware, has been traced back to the Abbasid dynasty in Iraq, where it is thought to have begun in the temporary capital of Samarra in the 9th century AD. The lustrous metallic sheen is obtained by fixing the salts of metals like copper or silver at a low temperature. This costly and complicated technique was brought to Spain through its contacts with the Arab world. The earliest production in Spain was in the 12th and 13th centuries in such pottery-making centers as Malaga and Grenada before moving on to Manises, on the outskirts of Valencia. By the late 14th century, Manises had become the most important producer of pottery in Spain. Most of its luxurious wares were for export, and Manises pottery became extremely fashionable and successful. The reputation of this decorative earthenware lasted until the 18th century, although the quality of production declined.

Bibliography

Migeon G., Musée du Louvre. L'Orient Musulman, Ed. Albert Morancé, 1922 (Documents d'art), p.50, n 268.
Louvre. Guide du visiteur. Les Objets d'art. Moyen-Age et Renaissance, R.M.N., 1994, p.72.

Technical description

  • Espagne, Manises (vers 1450)

    Plat aux armes des Gondi de Florence

  • Faïence lustrée

  • Legs Jean Léonce Leroux, 1892 , 1892

    OA 4034

  • Decorative Arts

    Richelieu wing
    1st floor
    Valence corridor
    Room 5
    Vitrine 7

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