A Brief Story of Ceramic in Este

Este can be considered as one of the most famous towns for ceramic in Italy. From the pre-historical age to the present days, Este's ceramic has always been an important sign in the life of the town.
The ancient inhabitants of "Athesis" (the river Adige, wich once unpon a time flew in Este) had certainly manipulated the clay and created rough objects, for their primitive existence.
These objects were not baked yet, but after modelling, they were only dried at sunlight. These ancient primitives people had then discovered that the clay, put in the fire, changed and became more resistant than the dried one.
This way will then lead to the modern ceramic, and during the centuries the techniques improved on and on. First we have the ceramic for domestic uses and funerals, then the one decorated with ornamental signs, or with some writings in the local language. Subsequently also the colours were used with real pictorical decoration. Several techniques were also created, studied, perfectionated.  

 The National Athestinus Museum (Museo Nazionale Atestino - Este, Via G. Negri 9/c - +39/(0)429/2085) owns numerous documents about the ceramic of the "Athestinian Age". From this  we go on to the roman times, when ceramic was very prosperous: vases, amphorae, oil lamps, etc. were carved with the "signatures" of the craftmen and workshops (Tari, Lupi, Luci, Neri, Lecidi, Maf , Strobili etc.).

After the roman times, there was a period of standstill, without traces of ceramic production. In the XI-XII century ceramic started again to be considered as a valuable thing and new techniques were discovered. In that time Este was one of the most important towns for ceramic in the whole Veneto, as reported in the local Athestinus Museum. 

Even if documents about the XIV-XVII centuries are lacking, it is certain that even Este must have had its workshops and in many notarial deeds and church documents, such as birth certificates, last wills, bear witness to the presence of  "scudelari", "bocalari", "pignatari" (ceramic manufacturers) born and lived in Este from 1500 to 1600.

In the 1700, the golden age of Este's ceramic, the most prestigious names in Veneto were: Pasquale Antonibon of Nove di Bassano, Geminiano Cozzi of Venezia e Girolamo Franchini of Este.

 

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Este's ceramics in 1700 and 1800

The XVIII century is to be considered as one of the golden centuries for the art of ceramic. Until that period only asian china was known. The competition with oriental markets operated as a stimulus to further exertions in traditional ceramic. Since the middle 1700 the workshops grow on and on and increase.
In Veneto the workshps of Vicenza, Bassano, Nove, Venice, Treviso, Este work at full rate.
The National Clay (known also as "Faenza fine" or "Clay for pipes") imitates the english one, yellow coloured, called Queen's Ware, invented by the famous J. Wedgwood in 1751. Even Este could not  avoid imitations. Its clay is light yellow colour, we don't know wether it was so becuase of a brilliant imitation, or becuase of the impurities in the clay revealed by the backing. Este's workshops reached an excellent productive level, that have being continuing though the centuries.

Initially these workshops started making common object and crockery; later on  they began designing and producing artistic items and getting themselves organized for this kind of ornamental production. Suddenly the clay treatment developed considerably: from the monochrome and white items, to the coloured and decorated items. Este was also famous for majolica, specially the blak one ("roba nera lustra") cheaper than the white clay. According to an old tradition, it was made for monasteries (therfore called "black monastery") and sold to the soldiers, again because of its low cost. 
Este's workshops also made plates, jugs, the traditional  "scaldini" (hand-warmers), the "foghere" (small stoves) and ornamental vases, sometime gold-painted.

The Moulds

Este preserves a large amount of original moulds, wich were (and still are) used to make the original ancient objects. Unfortunaltely such important artistic heritage was not so lucky elsewhere and had been wasted: neverthless, there still should exist moulds of Antonibon (now Barettoni), of Nove, of Ginori of Doccia and the ones of Capodimonte. The history of these moulds is somehow adventurous, because they were in part about to be wasted. The moulds are now kept in the several Este's workshops, that have to be consedered as those who really continued the Athestinus manufacturing. Most of the present moulds come from the ancient moulds of Brunello Workshop and Franchini and Apostoli. Others come from that young artisans' workshop, established after the world war II and directed by the painter Antonio Ferro.