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Casteldurante, the ceramic

art in Europe

Urbania, formerly Casteldurante, is a small city in the centre of Italy, situated in the Duchy of Montefeltro, near Urbino. During the Renaissance this town was the centre of a very lucky period of majolicas production. Today the City Hall of Urbania and a group of joung ceramists, is trying to recover this knowledge, scattered in museums and collections all over the world, to recreate a new ceramic developement and to give a new life to the old town. In a little time many activities and above all workshops are reviving. The exhibition of Strasburgo retraces the steps of ceramics masters of Casteldurante, who in the XVIth century spread their art throughout Europe. This exhibition finds itself inside this project that includes also the creation of a “Virtual Museurn” and of a “Centre of Studies” of the ceramics of the ancient Duchy of Urbino. Urbania - Casteldurante is the only town in the Marches and one of the 26 Italian cities to have obtained the title “area of ancient ceramic tradition” both for the very high level of its production during the Renaissance, and for the ceramists who continue the tradition today.


The ceramics of Casteldurante


The ceramics of Casteldurante (Urbania since 1636 in honour of Urbano VIII) was already present in the medieval period. In the XVIth century reached a very high qualitative fluorishing level, increased by “Raphaelism” and by the influence of painters, poets , and humanists of the Renaissance Court, Casteldurante also benefitted from the affluent conditions of the Duchy of Urbino during the domination of the Montefeltros and the Della Roveres. At about the middle of XVIth century, Casteldurance together with Urbino, Pesaro and other centres of the “metaurense” area in the Marches, produced some of the most beautiful majolicas of the Renaissance distinguishable from those of Faenza and others Italian places of majolica by the invention of typical decorations and the refinement of the narrative pictorial genre called “istoriata” (decorated with scenes). At this time, in Casteldurante, which lies on the banks of the Metauro river, over 40 klins were working for all the Eurapean Courts, and in the census were included 150 makers of majolica ware, among which there were turners and painters of extraordinary ability in decoration and drawings (Zoan Maria, Simone da Colonello, the Dolcis, the Fontanas, etc.). At the same time several masters left their town, taking their art to other parts of Italy, Northen Europe and abroad. About 1540, the “durantino” (inhabitant of Casteldurante) Cipriano Piccolpasso, the unique master of Italian Renaissance ceramics, wrote his treatise ‘The three books of the potter’s art” in which he taught the secrets and the rules of making ceramics (today the volume is preserved in the Victoria and Albert Museum of London). The heritage of knowledge of the ancient masters has been handed down during the centuries: today, we can find skillful ceramists, both professional and amateur, working in Urbania and in their workshops the colours, the techniques and the extraordinary richness of the vases and “istoriato” plates of the past, still live on.    


Exhibition sections


The ceramics of Casteldurante produced today by the local workshops according ancient methods: various types of ceramics from the area of Urbino and the river Metauro between XVIth and XVIIth centuries are on show.

“The three books of the potter’s art” by Cipriano Piccolpasso: Reproductions of making ceramic from Piccolpasso’s books, together with photographs of some important examples of ceramics of the Renaissance of Casteldurante.

The teaching of majolica: Clay- moulding- firing- enamelling­decoration- crystallisation process - second firing - finished majolica.

Moulding experience: A turner will create live antique shapes of the ceramics of Casteldurante.

Historical- geographical itinerary: The places and the movement of majolica.


The places of ceramics: Urbania, the ancient Casteldurante of majolicas


 There are places in Italy which are considered real sanctuaries of ceramics. Urbania is one of these centres. Situated in the Marches, in the province of Pesaro and Urbino, in the upper valley of the Metauro river, the ancient Casteldurante mantains its splendour of a noble past as small ducal city through cultural initiatives of which ceramics play the most important part. But Urbania is, today, a town of remarkable economic importance, following the “modello marchigiano” (clothing industries export all over Europe). It is also the site of an Italian language Institute for foreigners.


The ceramics foundations of Urbania­Casteldurante


Production area of traditional and artistic ceramics, Urbania is a member of the National Secretariat of Italian ceramic towns with headquarters in Faenza


Municipal Museum: collection of ceramics of Casteldurante and antique drawings.

 Diocesan Museum: houses an important collection of ceramics from the medieval period until the XXth century.

 Holiday courses of ceramics: courses for learning the ceramic art for Italians and foreigners at the ceramist’s workshops.

 Centre Cipriano Piccolpasso: ceramic laboratory for the promotion of joung talents.

 Association Friends of Ceramics: association of scholars and amateurs for the reitroduction of the ancient art of Casteldurante