Maiolica dish depicting Archangel Michael

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Urbino, Italy
Late 16th century
23.5 cm

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Archangel Michael, also known as St. Michael the Archangel, commands legions of guardian angels, all serving on the first ray of protection, faith and the will of God. The guardian angels await our prayers and calls to bring them into action in our world. Archangel Michael is the Prince of the Archangels and of the Angelic Hosts, the Defender of the Faith, the Angel of Deliverance and his divine complement is Archeia Faith. In the Book of Daniel he is called “the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people.” Archangel Michael is the sponsor of police departments and law enforcement agencies around the world.

Maiolica, the refined, white-glazed pottery of the Italian Renaissance, was adapted to all objects that were traditionally ceramic, such as dishes, bowls, serving vessels, and jugs of all shapes and sizes. It was also used as a medium for sculpture and sculptural reliefs, as well as floor and ceiling tiles. Maiolica is distinguished by its white, opaque glaze, due to the presence of tin oxide, a powdery white ash. Tin was an expensive imported substance, which made maiolica a far more expensive commodity than ordinary pottery. Great care was taken to refine and shape the local clays, which varied considerably in color and weight. A maiolica workshop would have consisted of about eight workers, each with a special task—gathering fuel, preparing and firing the kilns, preparing the raw clay, throwing or molding it into shapes, mixing and applying the glaze, and decorating it with ceramic pigments. All worked under the leadership of a master potter, who in most cases would have owned the workshop. Florence led the way in the fifteenth century in the production of maiolica. The output of the city’s workshops represented a technical and aesthetic advance on the process as it was learned from Islamic Spain (it is not known who introduced the technique into Italy). Before the turn of the sixteenth century, important centers in Naples, Pesaro, Faenza, Rome, and Deruta were making fine maiolicas. From the sixteenth century, surviving examples of great beauty were made in Forlì, Cafaggiolo, Castel Durante, Rome, Urbino, and Venice, as well as several places in Sicily. For important commissions, sources of design were either new drawings incorporating the arms and insignia of the client for one-of-a-kind pieces, or prints and other available drawings that were often repeated in an early form of mass production for a larger popular market.


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