A Rare Jar from Montelupo

This important jar with spout and rich dragon-shaped handles, is entirely decorated with refined and airy “raffaellesche”. On the front there is a shield with the figure of St. Dominic in prayer, over a big cartouche with a large inscription: SV° DI FM° STERNO S (meaning fumoterra syrup or sauce, a plant with purifying properties nowadays known as fumitory or earth smoke).

The large-size container was certainly made on commission in Montelupo, one of the main Renaissance majolica centers in Italy, as demonstrated by both the shape and the decorative repertoire. Jars like this were made for pharmacies of large convents or hospitals and the present one, because of the presence of St. Dominic depicted on the front, may have belonged to the pharmacy of an important institution such as the Dominican convent of Santa Maria Novella in Florence, where several jars with an identical formal layout but different decoration are still preserved.

A. Tempesta, A. Allori e bottega, Soffitto della Galleria degli Uffizi (part.), 1581

Two other jars are known, probably belonging to the same group of furnishings as our piece, with almost identical grotesque motifs and, of course, inscriptions identifying other preparations: one from the Pasquali collection (Conti, 1973) and another from an anonymous private collection (Berti, 1999).

Big double-handled Jar, Santa Maria Novella, “C2” Series (1613?)

Since the mid-16th century, the Raphaelesque motifs became part of the decorative repertoire of ceramics and majolica throughout central Italy as well as other decorative areas, from furniture ornamentation to wall decorations. In this regard, an interesting Tuscan reference can be found on the Uffizi Gallery corridors ceilings, painted by Antonio Tempesta and Alessandro Allori at the end of the 16th century, outstanding both for the great importance dedicated to the white background and the particularly rarefied and lively composition.


Montelupo (Florence)
Late 16th – early 17th century
H. cm. 42

References: G. Conti, L’arte della maiolica in Italia, Bramante, Milano 1973; F. Berti,
La maiolica di Montelupo. Secoli XIV- XVIII, Milano 1986, p. 144-148, ill. 92, 93a-b,
96a-b; F. Berti, Storia della ceramica di Montelupo, Montelupo 1999, vol. 3, p. 333;
idemLa farmacia storica fiorentina. I “fornimenti” in maiolica di Montelupo (secc. XVXVIII),
Firenze, 2010.

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