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Montelupo ceramics

The Montelupine kilns began to manufacture the first “archaic majolica”, decorated in ramina and manganese, already at the end of the XIII century, then developing this activity during the following century.

At the end of the fourteenth century Montelupo was one of the driving forces behind the technological and formal renewal of majolica in the Florentine area: it introduced new whitish ceramic mixtures which allowed for better glazing of the bisque. At the same time, the old two-tone green-brown color was passed to turn more and more to cobalt blue, adding lead oxide to the pigment which, melting during firing, made it rise on the glazed surface (“raised saffron”).

Already in the second half of the fourteenth century, as proof of the reached productive maturity, the first migratory flows of the potters of Montelupo are documented; phenomenon that will become more consistent in the following two centuries, affecting Florence, Pisa, Siena and Rome.
In the years between 1450 and 1530 the local production was known and exported all over the world, also thanks to the numerous Florentine commissions from the Pharmacy of Santa Maria Novella and the Medici themselves.

The mid-sixteenth century also brought interest in the variegated world of the “compendiary” to the Montelupo workshops, which here drew inspiration from two easily recognizable sources: the so-called “whites” from Faenza and Venetian majolica.

The market difficulties, connected with the sharp increase in inflation, however caused an important change in production, causing new trends.
Thus it was that the potters of Montelupo dedicated themselves to engobed ceramics (under glaze, but also marbled, splattered, etc.), distinguished by a lower production cost.
The terrible plague epidemic of 1630, following the years of general economic crisis of 1618, then struck an almost fatal blow to the ceramic enterprises of Montelupo.
In the second half of the seventeenth century we witness the evolution of historiato in the figurative genre, which includes the well-known “harlequins” or “mastacci”: illustrated plates on a yellow background with popular scenes of particular charm and beauty.
Between the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, manufacturing was reduced to tableware, but in nearby Capraia, in the 1840s, the Bardi furnace gave new impetus to production. In 1913 a family of expert ceramists, the Fanciullacci, moved to Montelupo, helping to give life to a new revival of majolica manufacturing in the center of the Valdarno.
Between the two world wars, the new ceramic business was strongly consolidated, thanks also to the opening of new factories which, with the post-war reconstruction and the production recovery of the 1950s and 1960s, underwent a phase of tumultuous development.
Today Montelupo Fiorentino is one of the major Italian ceramic hubs, dedicated to the production of raw materials and artistic majolica for export.
In the territory of today’s Municipality of Montelupo and the production area, the companies produce raw materials (earths and dyes), traditional ceramics, contemporary design ceramics, tiles and terracotta.
Ceramica di Montelupo Fiorentino is made within the borders identified as the “production territory” and made according to the production regulations based on the typical characteristics of Montelupo majolica, identified on the basis of studies and historical research.
Montelupo Fiorentino is located a few kilometers from Florence and owes its fortune to the particular geographical location that connects it directly to the main access roads to Tuscany and the national territory.
Its position in the center of Tuscany, not far from other important places such as Pisa, Siena, Volterra and San Gimignano, is the determining factor for the development of the processing.

In Montelupo, compared to other cities with an ancient ceramic tradition, all the aspects related to this product still survive. The Ceramics Museum and the Archaeological Museum deal with culture and historical research together with other important associations that work for the cultural enhancement of art and the memory linked to ceramics.
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