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Italian Maiolica and Other Early Modern Ceramics in the Courtauld Gallery

Italian Maiolica and Other Early Modern Ceramics in the Courtauld Gallery


This is the first catalogue of the collection of Early Modern ceramics in The Courtauld Gallery. The pieces in The Courtauld’s collection showcase brilliantly the skill of potters and pottery painters working at the time of Raphael and Titian.


Maiolica is one of the most revealing expressions of Renaissance art. Its extraordinary range of colours retain the vividness that they had when they left the potter’s kiln. Italian potters absorbed techniques and shapes from the Islamic world and incorporated ornament and subject matter from the arts of ancient Rome. This new approach to pottery making, combined with the invention of printing, woodcut and engraving, resulted in an extraordinary type of painted pottery, praised by Vasari in his Lives of the Artists for ‘surpassing the ancients with its brilliance of glaze and variety of painting’.


The collection boasts a magnificent group of vessels made during the high Renaissance, the golden age of Italian maiolica, and includes precious and delicate Deruta lustreware with imagery deriving from Perugino and Raphael, as well as vessels painted in a narrative style of pottery painting known as istoriato.


All major Renaissance pottery centres are represented in the collection, including Siena, Faenza and Venice, as well as splendid examples of the mysterious pharmacy jars made at the foot of the mountain of Gran Sasso in the town of Castelli d’Abruzzo. There are also handsome examples of Spanish lustreware, lead-glaze from France and Ottoman pottery. The detailed catalogue entries reveal affinities and influences between different pottery traditions and uncover a wealth of new information on the provenance of the pieces.


The volume includes an introductory essay on Italian Renaissance maiolica by the leading scholar on the subject, John Mallet, as well as an essay by Elisa Sani and Alexandra Gerstein, Curator of Sculpture and Decorative Arts at The Courtauld Gallery, on the Victorian collector Thomas Gambier Parry, which sheds new light on the development of this fascinating collection, connecting Gambier Parry’s artistic practice to his collecting and revealing new insights into his taste as a connoisseur.

  • Elisa Sani

    Autumn 2023 

    Hardback, 285 x 245 mm

    304 pages, 180 colour illus.

    ISBN: 978-1-913645-16-8

  • About the author

    Elisa P. Sani has worked at the Wallace Collection and the V&A. Among her publications are Italian Renaissance Maiolica (2012, V&A Publishing); Maiolica Before Raphael (Sam Fogg Gallery, 2017, Paul Holberton) and most recently Italian Maiolica and Beyond, Papers in Honour of Timothy Wilson, co-edited with J.V.G. Mallet (Ashmolean Publications, Oxford 2021) She is currently a Research Fellow at the Courtauld.

  • In the press

    "This fine book offers much useful information on the mid-19th-century art market in London and on the Continent." —Country Life 


    "The Courtauld's collection of Early Modern ceramics has in this handsome volume its first comprehensive catalogue ... generously illustrated." —World of Interiors 


    "The gallery of the Courtauld Institute of Art was the only one of the five large public collections of Italian maiolica in London – together with the V&A, the British Museum, the Wallace Collection and the Wernher Collection – to still lack a specialist study [of its holdings]. Elisa Paola Sani has filled this gap brilliantly with this volume, rich and well documented not just in its photography, but also in the critical essays and, most importantly, in the presentation of the pieces. The catalogue, written in English, is the result of a meticulous study begun by the author in 2017, which continues the research originally undertaken by John Mallet."  —Faenza (periodical of the The International Museum of Ceramics in Faenza)

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