GRAPEWINE, WINE AND THE ARTS DEPENDING ON FIRE
Ceramics, glass and iron excel among the decorative arts presented at the museum, these attest to what is mentioned in the individual sectors and codifying the arts related to fire plays its part in the process.
Ceramic forms the core of the primary collection; it goes beyond the due connection with the territory – Umbria, land of potters – and extends to Italian production from the Middle Ages to the present day; it is organised into three sections: wine as nourishment, medicine and myth.
In room I the archaeological itinerary – extended to the micro-Asian area – concluded with the late Roman period. The core of the collection (room XII) takes as a premise an introduction to crafts which, considering the derivations and influences, intends to be a double, due recognition to the creativity of the potter (form and decoration), or to the affinity between the arts testified by the graffiti cabinet: the potter’s mark on the terracotta does not allow for second thoughts, as it’s the case for the burin engraving the wood intended for printing.
WINE AS A NOURISHMENT
“The healthiest and most nutritious drink” – as Pasteur called wine – is actually a complementary energy food of which modern biology has highlighted the nutritional, eupeptic, vasodilatory, antibacterial and muscle relaxant properties, indicating its use and condemning its abuse.
The path opens with a large Romanesque lunette panel whose symbols correspond to the similar ones painted in manganese and iron colours on medieval mugs, pitchers, large and small cups.
Then come a rare hydria (14th century) with a falconer centaur, lion-shaped; a two-tailed mermaid with apotropaic eyes referring to Frederick II’s De arte venandi and the Canaan Wedding; a large cup “a inganno”, evoking convivial gathering. The path proceeds chronologically, attesting to the diffusion of techniques and decorations coming from the Islamic world in the Humanist age and through Spain, starting with the “zaffere” (blue/violet majolica) soon to be followed by colours and glazes.
The amatory tableware has its own display space, followed by the Renaissance, which established itself with the passage from Gothic “BER” kind to the Roman square capital, the istoriato, the lustre and the Raphaelesque. Here we see how shapes that were usually produced in noble metal and were common in kitchen furnishings, now appear reproduced in ceramics and with wine mugs turning into beer mugs; this reminds us of a type of economy conditioned by the wars and looting that were widespread in Italy at the time. The mocking irony of the potter here shines repeatedly, Giacomo Mancini, known as “El Frate”, portrays himself praying in front of a wine barrel in one of his plates. The dish, in lustre, is a premise to the counter-reformist atmosphere of the Compendiario of the “bianchi di Faenza” with its sober colour palette and the thick and velvety glaze. Finally we have items illustrating the 18th century perduring of exchanges with the Dalmatian coast, Napoleon and Venice, the crisis of the furnaces and the revival due to the charming “jugs of the rose”, produced at piccolo fuoco: an air of Europe, wine in sonnets.
WINE AS A MEDICINE
The medical texts in room XIII document the ancient use of wine in medicine; these were chosen in relation to the importance of the edition and the historical relevance of their authors, from Hippocrates to Dioscorides, Galen, Arnaldo di Villanova, Mattioli and so on. Pourers, bottles, apothecary’s albarelli, balls, ointment jars are placed next to them. The books are open to present “masterful recipes” in which the wine has the function of an ingredient or solvent; herbs or substances that contain them and determine their specific potential are always used in these recipes, focussing curiosity and intuition on the produce of the vine. The apothecary plays a role of great responsibility and the Art of Apothecaries enjoys a well-established prestige.
The wine he uses is always considered as source of exalting energy. Because of the thick layer of stanniferous enamel, the ceramic vases are perfect containers for the preservation of these remedies, protecting them from humidity and light. The potters are attentive to the judgment of the public, the apothecaries consider their works an affirmation and prestige for their stores, as they are also for princely, conventual and hospital pharmacies. Their decoration is the one in vogue in secular production, with heraldic emblems dignifying them.
THE WINE IN MTH
Among the exhibited works, a lustre istoriato of particular interest is the Infantia de Bacho (the Greek Dionysos!), by Mastro Giorgio Andreoli da Gubbio, signed and dated 1528 and taken from an engraving by Marcantonio Raimondi based on an idea by Raphael. The very high quality of the ruby and cantharides lustre of this work is emblematic, it serves to explain how even the greatest potters in the Urbino area employed this master to apply the lustre to their most important works.
Dionysus is the son of Zeus and Semele, who dies for having contemplated the Father of the gods – instigated by Juno – in all his splendour, he is saved by the same father sewing him into his thigh. Just like Athena, Dionysus is born directly from Zeus. At the beginning he was probably the spirit responsible for the flora, he then assumed a human form over time and will be thought to be followed by a thyasos of maenads and satyrs. Pericles will make of him the god of viticulture. He is an ambiguous divinity like the drink he is associated with, he protects his followers, persecutes those who oppose his cult as exemplified by Euripides’ Bacchantes. He will rescue Ariadne forsaken by Theseus and make her his bride; the couple on the chariot will become a subject loved by artists of the classical era as well as the Renaissance, when Dionysos becomes the exultant personification of nature as interpreted in the Camerini Estensi. Rome fears the excesses of wine and the enigmatic Greek god becomes the inebriated Roman Bacchus.
The use of glass, understood as a vitreous paste for decorations, has been known since the Mesopotamian age, and in Egypt from the Pharaonic age. The techniques evolve over time, until they reach the turning point of the blowing method, allowing the affirmation of the artistic glass (1st century B.C.). Linked to cosmetics as a container for perfumed oils and ointments, blown glass is required by the innumerable perfume factories that make it an object of desire. Its applications are multiple, from the table to the living room, to the amorous symbolism. At the museum, some meaningful examples are the refined carafe modelled as a “drink if you can” (France, 16th century), a Venetian glass with pendant blue rings (18th century, Murano) and an engraved glass with the symbology of love (early 19th century). Of notable relevance are the cup made by Josef Hoffmann (among the founders of the Viennese Secession), with the slots obtained within the double cladding, and the one on a high base evoking a female face (designed by Jean Cocteau, signed and dated 1963 and made by the Fucina degli Angeli). The section closes with a 1970s turquoise bottle, by the Venini Manufacture, made with diamond-point machining on the cold surface of the finished object, and a recent donation from Giuliano Giuman, the 2018 work Dalle origini alla vita attesting to the continuous updating of the museum’s collections.
The blacksmith – Ephesus in Greek myth – is a figure of unusual importance starting with the palatial civilisations: in Egypt, the pharaoh would keep him in seclusion fearing he could reveal the secrets of his art, which was precious in the daily life of the peasant who, in the isolation of the countryside, resorts to the blacksmith for work tools, and equally in the city, with its demand for weapons, furniture and for its importance in supporting works destined to last over time.
The waffle irons belong to the furnishings: they originated from the tools used for the particles, which replaced the double Eucharist, they are evidence of the evolution of customs and taste. These were linked to the wine for preparation and consumption, initially characterised by a reticulated incision or isolated symbols, they later evolved into a more complex appearance, until they reached an admirable wealth of decoration and symbolism in the Renaissance age, whether they were destined for weddings (bearing the two coats of arms, or in preparation for them) or celebratory ones, sometimes bearing the inscription indicating their belonging, mottos and sentences or solely for representation. The collection includes items from the 13th to the 17th century.