Published: May 13, 2003
Tin-glazed Earthenware from Spain and Mexico
By Laura Beach
SANTA FE, N.M — Several doors down from the Museum of Spanish Colonial Art, the Museum of International Folk Art is offering its own look at cross-currents in the decorative arts in “Ceramica y Cultura: The Story of Spanish & Mexican .”
On display are more than 250 pieces of tin-glazed earthenware, the earliest dating to the Fifteenth Century. The exhibition explores the changes in form and style that took place over six centuries, and reflects the interactions between such diverse cultures and religions as Christians and Muslims; Spanish, Flemish and Italians; and Mexicans, Asians and Native Americans, says the exhibition’s curator, Robin Farwell Gavin.
Called “” in Spain, tin-glazed earthenware was known as “maiolica,” “majolica,” “faience” or “delftware” elsewhere in Europe. The technique of tin enameling — adding tin oxide to lead glaze to create an opaque white surface — was developed in the eastern Mediterranean in ancient times and brought to Spain by Islamic artists in the Tenth Century.
The most common pigment sources for early Spanish s were copper-green and manganese-black/purple/brown. These colors, introduced by Islamic potters, dominated ceramic production in some areas of Spain for three centuries.
Several areas in Spain became known for their tin-glazed pottery, most notably Manises (Valencia), Sevilla (Andalucía) and Talavera de la Reina (Castile-Aragón). From Spain, the technique soon spread to the rest of Europe, but Spanish retained its distinctive style.
Following Spanish colonization in the Americas, the tradition underwent further changes. The Spanish introduced the potter’s wheel, the closed kiln and glazes to an already thriving indigenous ceramic tradition in New Spain. Initially, mayolic design in Mexico followed European models. Within a few years, however, Mexican potters began to turn to other sources for their inspiration, particularly the Chinese porcelains brought to Mexico via the Philippines on the Manila galleons.
Over the next three centuries, the potters of New Spain produced ceramics that were characterized by a distinctive Mexican aesthetic. Known as “talavera” or “loza blanca,” this ceramic tradition is carried on today in Mexico.
“Ceramica y Cultura: The Story of Spanish and Mexican ” continues at the Museum of International Folk Art through September 7. Highlights of the display included a reconstructed tiled kitchen from Puebla, Mexico, a potters’ workshop and videos of contemporary potters at work.
A catalog, Ceramica y Cultura: The Story of Spanish and Mexican , edited by Robin Farwell Gavin, Donna Pierce and Alfonso Pleguezuelo, is available from the University of New Mexico Press ($49.95 hardcover, $29.95 paper). Gavin, the recently named curator at the Museum of Spanish Colonial Art, directed the project in collaboration with guest scholars Pierce, curator of Spanish colonial art at the Denver Art Museum; Pleguezuelo, professor of architectural history at the Universidad de Sevilla; Florence Lister, independent researcher and scholar on ; and Ana Paulina Gámez Martínez, professor of decorative arts at the Universidad Iberoamericana, Mexico D.F., and curator of Spanish Colonial art at the Museo Nacional de Arte in Mexico City.
Upcoming programs include a lecture, on June 8, by Lister; and a symposium, ” from the Spanish World,” on August 28-29, sponsored by several of Santa Fe’s leading museums.
The Museum of International Folk Art, a division of the Museum of New Mexico, is on Camino Lejo, off of Old Santa Fe Trail. Telephone, 505-476-1200.
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