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Salt shaker

Patanazzi workshop

Urbino, 16th century

Material: High fire decorated pottery

Size: W 12 x D 12 x H 10 cm

review by gherardo turchi

The amazing piece of pottery we’re going to analyse was realised by Antonio Patanazzi, whose Urbino’s renowned workshop was active as of the mid sixteenth century.

Urbino was one of the most important Renaissance pottery centres thanks to Della Rovere dukes. The cerquate decoration, based on the stylization of oak branches and leaves, is then meant to honour them. 

Before the sixteenth century some very skilled artists, although today unknown, used to realize several decorations to enhance their works. The grotesque (like those of Raffaello Sanzio’s paintings), mask and trophy looking ones were the most popular of theirs.

Therefore, Urbino’s potters got the highest success when they began decorating their artworks with historical scenes, as of the 1520’s. They were mainly inspired by Raffaello’s pictorial techniques being spread to all the applied arts. Urbino then became one of the most renowned pottery centres at that time.

Such artworks were equipped with snake shaped handles and Chimera or faun head looking pourers, just like the earlier bronze or metal vases.

Several artists succeeded in realising similar pieces of pottery and majolica. Nicola Di Gabriele Sbraghe, better known as Nicola Da Urbino, Francesco Xanto Avelli from Rovigo, Guido Durantino and the Fontanas were certainly the most renowned.

The Patanazzis, whose workshop kept on realising pottery and majolica artworks until the 1630’s, stood however out for their historiated products, inspired to Raffaello’s painting techniques mainly.

Antonio Patanazzi’s production is far from being perfectly known. Although previously ascribed to the Fontanas, his earliest works have been recently dated back to 1580. His signature can prove that.

In 1553 and 1560 Antonio, along with Orazio and Guido Fontana, assisted Nicola Sbraghe’s sons in some issues of theirs as well.

He’s then very likely to be identified with Antonio Da Urbino, the potter a 1562 debit note of Turin Royal Treasurer’s mentioned about one of the trips Emanuele Filiberto had made some time before. Orazio Fontana’s death certificate – dated back to 1571 – is meant to further prove he was one of Antonio’s closest friends.

In 1578 Orazio’s daughter, Virginia, gave her dowry back to her mother, in accordance with her father’s will. It was composed of some grotesque historiated pieces of pottery he had realised. Most of them were at Antonio Patanazzi’s.

Orazio’s grandson, Flaminio, kept his uncle’s workshop open. In 1564 they supplied Florence’s Grand duke with a lot of pieces of pottery and majolica.

Antonio Patanazzi died on 24 May 1587.

The square shaped salt shaker we’re analysing is most likely to be realized by him, just like the amazing set it belonged to. Another salt shaker, very similar although rectangular shaped, has been on antique market since 2004.

The central part of its lid is finely adorned with a tiny Cupid. Some Raffaello style looking grotesque decorations enhance the whole piece of pottery as well.

We can then date it back to Antonio Patanazzi’s latest production (1579). The leonine supporting feet and the female shaped items each corner is provided with – some of Patanazzi’s favourite ones – can surely prove that.      

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