This fascinating piece of Italian pottery is a wet drug jar, an apothecary container for holding liquid medicines and healing oils, from Montelupo Fiorentino, long a center of maiolica production in Tuscany. It is a copy of a XIV century one, made by the internationally known ceramic artist Eugenio Taccini, born in Montelupo, where his passion was ignited by the ancient pottery shards he dug up in his grandfather's yard as a boy. For the last forty years or so, he has been creating his pottery; this traditional jar is an earlier, signed piece of his, since he and his daughter Lea, who began working with him in 1994 have begun designing more modern ceramics. The last photo shows the maestro at work.
The two colors used for the designs on this jar are those first used at the end of the thirteenth century. The rough, dark red clay was coated with an opaque greyish-white tin glaze. The hand painted decorations are outlined in manganese and colored by green ramina (copper), placing this jar in the Florentine Green family of maiolica. The interior of the jar and the underside of the handle have just the white glaze and are undecorated. The wide, curved, flattened handle runs ribbon-like from the rim to the belly. The top of the handle, the foot, the rim, the spout--all are painted with the green ramina.
There are several descriptive words handwritten in black on the red clay bottom:
----"Dec." (abbreviation for the Italian "decorazione" = decoration) " Zaffera". Zaffera can refer to cobalt in the glaze which this piece obviously does not have, but one of the other meanings of Zaffera is the name for the serrated-edge oak leaves on the pot. Both the leaves and the large free-hand birds were originally borrowed from earlier Oriental designs.
---The signature in script of Eugenio Taccini
This footed jar stands 8 1/2 inches tall, measures 12 inches from spout to handle and sits on a 4 1/2 inch diameter base. It weighs an impressive 4 1/2 pounds. While there are flakes and chips missing from the painted surfaces, the pottery itself has not sustained any damage. The surfaces are pitted and rough in many spots-- this is not fine china but humble yet beautiful earthenware. It is a striking piece of Tuscan pottery by a master artist, perfect to decorate your palazzo.