The first of the six exhibitions in the programme for 2023 promoted by the Fondazione CR Firenze and the Gallerie degli Uffizi in the context of their respective Piccoli Grandi Musei and Uffizi Diffusi schemes, comes to Montelupo, one of the country's most important centres in the production of ceramics.
Montelupo first made a name for itself as a leading centre for the manufacture of ceramics as long ago as the late 13th century, a fact we can glean from the astonishing number of majolica items unearthed in archaeological digs both inside the medieval town and in sites ranging from the Mediterranean to the Americas and even as far afield as Japan. At the height of its splendour, between the mid-15th and mid-16th centuries, items fashioned by master potters in what was known as the “factory of Florence” were very much in demand with the aristocratic families of Florence such as the Medici. The numerous examples of such items include plates with the papal arms of Leo X, in a portrait by Bronzino loaned to the exhibition by the Gallerie degli Uffizi. A comparison between the splendid miniature and the ceramics bearing the Medici crest points to the close tie of patronage binding the workshops of Montelupo to the rulers of Florence.
Montelupo ceramic also played a major role in people’s daily lives, as we can see from the paintings depicting domestic areas (such as the kitchen or the larder) which continued to be popular right up to the end of the 17th century. A perfect example is the painting by Jacopo Chimenti, known as Empoli, in which we can distinguish two ceramics whose shape and decoration are reminiscent of typical Montelupo work. In this instance, a selection of apothecary’s jars, plates and jugs sits side by side not only with the figured majolicas but also with others whose subject matter alludes to a well-stocked table and the spoils of the hunt.
All the ceramics on display have been unearthed in the course of excavations in Montelupo Fiorentino over the past fifty years.
The project also benefits from the cooperation of Unicoop Firenze.