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Justin Raccanello

Author, Independent Scholar and Dealer, London 

The Pursuit of Porcelain: Maiolica, Faience and Delft:

Chasing Tin-glaze Production Across Europe

Monday, February 13, 2023

2:00 PM via Zoom


Sponsored by Andrew Schirrmeister

Wine Cooler, circa 1562–75, workshop of the Fontana family (Urbino, Italy), maiolica (tin-glazed earthenware), height: 12 7/8 in. (32.7 cm.), width: 23 1/2 in. (59.7 cm.), The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Friedsam Collection, Bequest of Michael Friedsam, 1931 (32.100.362). Photo courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. 

When the first porcelain from China arrived in Europe, it was regarded as an almost magical material -- hard, white and translucent, unlike anything seen before. The discovery that the addition of tin to a ceramic glaze would produce a white surface similar to porcelain allowed potters to use terracotta to imitate the Chinese product, which they attempted with varying degrees of success from humble tableware to luxury items that furnished ducal and princely palaces.

The spread of this new technology around the Mediterranean and then into Northern Europe can be traced by the various names that it acquired along the way, maiolica in Italy, faience in France, delft in the Low Countries and England. How did these names originate, and did they have any relevance? After all, the word for porcelain is similar in most Western European languages, why is there such variety in the names describing tin-glaze?

From the European origins in Spain, we will discover some of the personalities and objects involved in this dispersion until it was finally eclipsed by the discovery in Europe in the 18th century of how to make porcelain in the Chinese manner.  

Justin Raccanello is a London antique dealer and graduate of the Christie's Fine Arts Course. A familiar face at TEFAF and Frieze Masters as well as London Art Week, he has also published various essays on the history of ceramics and collecting.

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