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The Beauty and History of Italian Dinnerware

by Corina on April 22nd, 2011


For many, the mention of Italian dinnerware evokes images of the bold colors and intricate designs associated with Majolica, a pottery that actually developed on the Spanish island of Majorca. In Renaissance times this tin-glazed pottery was heavily imported into Italy, and by the fifteenth century, the potters themselves were imported to Italy and provided with many incentives such as tax breaks to keep them producing more of the beautiful Italian dinnerware. Over the centuries, many designers and styles sprang up, and some of them still have a place in modern times. .

Italian Dinnerware Ricco Deruta

Ricco Deruta

Ricco Deruta has its roots in the Renaissance, but there is a distinctly Art Nouveau feel to its flowers and branches. Based on the intricate and predominantly primary colored designs, it is not surprising that the word ricco means “rich” in Italian. The Grazia factory developed the Ricco Deruta style from historical sources, and it may indeed date back to designs conceived by the great artist Raphael.


Italian Dinnerware - Raffaellesco


The Raffaellesco design is more closely connected to Raphael, specifically to the mythical beasts that he often mingled into his frescoes.  The Raffaellesco style is known for featuring, among other animals, a golden dragon, which legend tells Raphael copied from the ancient crumbling frescoes in Roman villas. Incredibly detailed scrolls and sprigs of cobalt blue set off the gold beasts on this design in such an elegant style it is easy to see why it is one of the timeless designs of Italian ceramics.


Italian Dinnerware Arabesco


The Arabesco style came from the prolific Italian potters copying Arabic patterns. Interlaced, angular, and geometric, the patterns are often unending. The patterns are carefully hand painted by craftsman that have studied with a master, who in turn learned from their master, going back in an unbroken chain for generations. Oddly enough, the Arabesco style seems to have arrived in Italy from a Flemish man, Juan Flores, rather than from a Moorish influence.


Italian Dinnerware - Geometrico


The Geometrico style has its roots in ancient Greece. Archaeologists say the pottery excavated in Etrusca, an ancient province of Italy, is almost indistinguishable from the Grecian pottery of the same era. In ancient times, the geometric patterns were incised on the damp, reddish pots in a technique called sgraffito. Modern Geometrico is hand painted with bold colors atop a white base glaze, and finished with a protective clear glaze layer.


Italian Dinnerware - Frutta Rosso


Frutta designs feature bold fruit on a white background set off with bright green leaves.  This style  has been popular for hundreds of years, and was mentioned in Victorian English Magazines as being very popular collectibles even then. The whimsical hand painted Frutta patterns remain popular to this very day.



Italian Dinnerware - Toscana Rosso


Toscana pottery, made since medieval times in the Tuscany region, evokes the splendid countryside of Italy with the sun-drenched colors, abundant fruits and whimsical insects and animals that decorate it. Often featuring an embossed surface that gives the succulently painted fruit a realistic plumpness, Toscana can be vividly satisfying to touch as well as look at. The little town of Montelupo Fiorentino has been manufacturing this style of dinnerware since the Renaissance due to the high quality of its clay.


The many styles of Italian ceramics, though based in history, are timeless.  Bold colors coupled with intricate hand painted designs give Italian dinnerware its distinctive look.  At the same time, the wide variety of patterns available means that there is probably a pattern out there to suit just about anyone’s taste. The classic styles have survived for centuries, and will likely be popular for centuries to come.


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Deruta Pottery

Tuscan Pottery  .

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