Dante, Design and the Renaissance - Reconciling creative tradition with Italy’s cultural heritage

Posted on 21st August 2015 by De Moura

"Il piacere più nobile è la gioia di comprendere​" - Leonardo da Vinci

The steady flow of writing that emanates from Italy enthuses the senses and evokes an inescapable desire to pack one’s bags and make a dash for the ‘Bel Paese’ not least when summer seems to have passed northern Europe by entirely.

I am a long-standing follower of Italophile, Tim Parks’ work, having first discovered his illuminating style of writing in ‘An Italian Education’ in the early 2000s.  As an Englishman who adopted Italy as his homeland, one would be hard pressed to find a better source of insight into this beautiful and unique country through its heritage, history and rich tapestry of culture, capturing the imaginations of outsiders, for centuries.  Fast-forward to 2015 and he recently released ‘A Literary Tour of Italy’, a collection of illuminating essays that feature insightful references to modern day life in the country.  Parks draws parallels between the narrative of authors as far back as timeless Florentine legends Machiavelli and Dante, up to the 20th century, highlighting the achievements of writers such as the renowned, late Lusophile, Antonio Tabucchi, and noting “how profoundly a people’s character and destiny are bound up with and reflected by its literature”.

Florence c.1851, Presso MoliniThe infamous painting of Dante's Inferno by Domenico di Michelino, c.1465

The irresistible essence of Italy that Parks, and others such as Helena Atlee in her treatise on citrus fruit ‘The Land Where Lemons Grow’ succeed in portraying has clear parallels in the handcrafted objects created with great attention to detail by Tuscan artisans today.  Not only do they exude the beauty for which Florence is world renowned, but betray their origin through the traditional techniques used for centuries by today’s craftsmen.  The legacy of ceramic production in Tuscany dates back thousands of years, to the truly ancient times of the Etruscans who inherited the tradition from the Ancient Greeks, but established their own distinctive style in the form of attractive ‘bucchero’ ceramics, a particularly unique style that involved the firing of the clay at high temperatures, in an oxygen-poor environment; a ‘reduction’ method, which when combined with a thin lacquer and vigorous polishing, bestows upon the pieces their trademark glossy black finish.  The region has witnessed an extraordinary transformation through the ages as styles evolved to meet the preferences of the time.  Among the most prolific designs today are the rustic, traditional models that offer classic shapes with a contemporary twist, drawing on Italian culture as a whole for inspiration, while modern innovation does not disappoint, as artisans draw on the wealth of heritage of their homeland to provide the undeniable beauty the world has come to expect from this very special part of the world. 

For a boutique selection of authentic Tuscan Ceramics, see our exclusive range online, or in store.

Decorative Italian wall panel in plasterItalian bust, handmade in plaster

Handcrafted Roman column lamp in plaster.  Provenance:  TuscanyOrnamental Etruscan potTypical Etruscan pottery

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