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Giovanni Maria Vasaro
Italian maiolica Master of the 16th Century

Giovanni Maria Vasaromaiolica plate, 34 cm (13 1/2") diameter, painted between 1510-1520. The torso of a nobleman is seen in profile on a dark blue background. His head is adorned with a griffin or dragon, typical of the Raphaelesque or Grotesque style of maiolica painting. The man's name, Marcus Valdus, is diplayed prominently on a scroll. Truly a masterpiece of Italian Rennaisence ceramics, this work has been attributed to the workshop of Giovanni Maria Vasaro (1475–1550).

The Italian master potter and decorator was probably born in Faenza, but had a workshop in Castel Durante from the early 1500s. His ‘Bowl with the Arms of Pope Julius II’ of 1508 is described by the Metropolitan Museum of New York as being “widely regarded as one of the most beautiful pieces of maiolica ever made”. It is the only known signed work by Vasaro, although others, such as the work above, are attributed to him due to the style.

Maiolica, or maiolica, is a technique whereby a decoration of ceramic pigments is painted onto a low-firing white glaze, usually a tin-glaze over an earthenware or terracotta clay. The technique can be traced back to Mesopotamia of the 9th century AD. Eventually it made its way via North Africa and Spain to Italy, where it was embraced and refined. Around the 15th century, many Hispano-Moresque wares made at Valencia, Spain, were shipped to Italy via the island of Majorca, at the time also known as Majorica or Maiolica - hence the name. In France and Germany the term faience is used.

Related Article: Picolpasso and the Art of Maiolica in 16th century Italy
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