Renaissance Portraits In Deruta Ceramics

During the Renaissance portraits were one of the favorite subjects of Deruta potters, less keen on painting historical scenes (istoriato) which, on the contrary, were the pride of Gubbio, Casteldurante, Faenza and Urbino.

Before going through the reasons why Deruta pottery was so different from other Umbrian ceramics, it.

The central feature of humanism in this period was the commitment to the idea that the Greek and Roman intellectual achievements should be taken as a model by contemporary Europeans.

Fine arts revived the Classical values and artistic styles and developed the use of proportion, perspective and chiaroscuro in the accurate portrayals of figures and landscapes.

The new geographical discoveries (America!) and the increase of trade between nations during the early Renaissance created a new wealthy mercantile class, eager to govern over the rising urban communes and increasingly demanding luxury goods.

Italian ceramics became the ideal artistic medium of the Renaissance society. Through pottery the fine art values and the spirit of the Renaissance entered the houses of the new social classes. Well crafted, elegantly decorated, Italian Renaissance ceramics gained the status of an art form. They became a fashionable item.

Lavishly decorated dishes, apothecary jars, handled vases and bowls were displayed prominently by citizens from all levels of society and swiftly traded all over Europe.

Potters closely followed the works of the most  ceramic canister popular painters, more or less freely reinterpreting them in their ceramics.

This was particularly evident in Deruta ceramics, which were deeply influenced by Perugino and Pinturicchio paintings, both active in Perugia and having personal relationships in Deruta.

Although their influence on Deruta ceramics was not limited to the choice of portraits as favourite subjects, it certainly accounts for the superior quality and distinctiveness of achievements of the local potters.

Perugino’s skill in depicting the human body and flesh tones, both in religious paintings and in secular portraits, was extremely original and explains his first, dazzling success in Rome. He became the most sought-after painter in Italy, and the most expensive. Nonetheless, Perugino never abandoned his home turf, and was to spend much of the rest of his career in Umbria, mostly in Perugia.

His vision and techniques were to nurture the talent of one of his pupils, Pinturicchio, who rapidly became very famous himself. From his finely decorated figures glistening with gold, Deruta potters got the inspiration for their beautiful yellow-gold lustres and the taste for details in portrait painting.

Please, don’t jump to the conclusion that the relationship between Deruta potters and Perugino’s and Pinturicchio’s painting was merely based on a common artistic taste, though. It was also very practical, indeed.


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