Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Ancient Clay

The MIC's main hall

We know we are a species obsessed with itself and its own past and origins. We know we are capable of removing from the sanctuary of the earth shards and fragments, and gently placing them in museums. Great museums in great cities—the hallmarks of civilization.” ― Kathleen Jamie

When we got up this morning, I really didn't feel like doing much. I don't have to tell you (unless you live in the North Pole, Antarctica, or some other God-forsaken place where the temperature never rises about 0) that heat and humidity will take the will to move out of you.  And, if it doesn't do that to you, then please send me some of whatever it is that makes you that way because I sure can use it.

15th century pharmacy jars from Faenza

At any rate, Mike didn't really want to sit around here again, so I compromised a bit and suggested we go to Faenza.  Most of you are probably saying, "Faenza?  What the heck is Faenza? " or "Where the heck is Faenza?" and/or "Who the heck would *go* to Faenza?"  Faenza is a small city (58.000+ people) about 31 miles from Bologna that we decided to visit because one of my friends recommended it. That said,  Faenza is not a tourist town, and there's not much to it other than the requisite palazzo, cathedral, and ceramics museum.

15th century serving pieces from Faenza
Yes, you read that right.  Faenza is home to the Museo internazionale delle Ceramiche (MIC), or International Museum of Ceramics.  Mike didn't believe it, either, but Faenza has been in the forefront of the ceramic world for centuries and is home to not only the Faenza Bianca (Faenza White) pottery but also majolica, a tin-glazed pottery.  Founded in 1908, the MIC has the greatest collection of ancient, modern, and contemporary ceramics in the world.  The ceramics in the collection include works from countries all over the world and span many centuries. Of course,  the MIC showcases Italian ceramics.

17th century plaque from Abruzzo
 (I need to step out again for a moment and comment on ceramics and the quote above.  I think that Jamie is right that we are obsessed with our history, and should we not be?  The things that we see in museums and in historical buildings are all so amazing for what they represent. It upsets me greatly that those hoodlums in the Middle East are destroying remnants of ancient civilizations.  Whether we like the art, the sculpture, the photos, the writings or not, they are part of our history, of our beginnings.)

17th century sculpture from Tuscany
What amazed me, as usual, was the fact that some of the pottery was so old yet in such good condition.  While much of it had been in private collections of royals and wealthy citizens, even more were ordinary pieces used in everyday life.  There were a number of cases dedicated to jars used in pharmacies (blue and white ceramics above), and several dedicated to dinnerware and serving pieces (bowls above).  A good number were, of course, religious in nature (above and below).  Many appeared during archeological digs, and many were donations from individuals, families, governments, etc.

Moses and Isaac on a plate—17th century Tuscany

"How much restoration do you think they've done?" Mike asked me when we were looking at a few pieces that were obviously put back together.  He was talking, however, about the colors.  I asked the docent at a desk near us.

"The only restoration," she told me, "is to put things together.  The paint, the glaze, are all original. But, may have had no restoration. They are in original condition."


I'll point out, as I did the other day, that religion played as huge a part in the ceramic work as it did in paintings during the 16-19th centuries.  That was, of course, due to the fact that most of what is now Italy was part of the Papal State,  and religion ruled almost every aspect of everyone's life.

17th century Marche

Both of us agreed that our favorite part of the museum was the contemporary ceramic sculpture. The ceramicists vying for the 39th annual Faenza Prize had their work on display, so it was interesting to see the 50 or so pieces in the running for the award.  As with most art, I don't get how some of the pieces qualified to be art, but that's me.  At the risk of upsetting my friends who think that a piece of white clay with a triangle sliced out of it is worthy of being in a museum, I'll just drop it (But! I do have a piece of white clay with a triangle sliced out of it that I'd love to sell you for $10,000 if you need it for your collection.)

21st century ceramic and glass sculpture

My favorite piece was the life-size copper tree (above) with glass and ceramic leaves hanging from it.  I want it for my house, but something tells me I can't afford it.  I may have to make one someday.

A ceramic water ox in competition for the Faneza Prize
We stayed about 90 minutes, most of which we spent sweating because the museum did not have air conditioning throughout.  Luckily, we had put water bottles in the freezer last night, so I kept mine clutched to my chest (Note it in the photo above) most of the morning.  It was still too hot, though, so after we left the musuem, we walked a few blocks, turned around, and caught the train home.

We're back to the dilemma of what to do tomorrow since the temperatures are going to be even higher.

Heaven only knows.

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