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The Story of Spanish and Mexican Mayólica

Origins of Mayólica
Origins of Spanish MayólicaOrigins of Mexican MayólicaImage Gallery

Posset Pot / Orza para 'posset', ca. 1680, England
Posset Pot / Orza para ‘posset’
ca.1680, England
International Folk Art
Foundation, Santa Fe
Photo by Paul Smutko
What is Mayólica?

Mayólica is the Spanish term for a specific method of glazing earthenware pottery. The earliest glazes developed in the Near and Middle East were of lead. These glazes were transparent, but by adding certain minerals, such as manganese-purple or copper-green, an overall shade was created that would hide the color of the clay. However, designs could not be painted in lead glazes as they would run. In the 9th century a remarkable discovery was made: by adding tin oxide to the lead glaze, an opaque white surface was created that could both cover the clay color and be used as a paint surface. This discovery allowed potters to imitate the appearance of costly Chinese porcelain in earthenware.

The Spanish term mayólica is synonymous with maiolica, majolica, faience, and delftware. In Spain and Mexico it is often called loza or talavera (after the Spanish ceramics center located in the town of Talavera de la Reina). Some scholars suspect the word mayólica is derived from Malíca, the historic name for Málaga, a Spanish town that produced early tin-glazed ceramics. Other scholars believe the term is related to Mallorca, the island from which these tin-glazed earthenwares were shipped throughout the Mediterranean world. Whatever its origin, the term mayólica describes a distinctly Spanish pottery, and indicates Spain’s prominent role in its artistic creation.


Origins of Mayólica

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