Situated on the ground floor of the Palazzo Brugiotti is a splendid example of post-Renaissance architecture built in the second half of the sixteenth century. The museum comprises over 440 square meters, filled with items from northern Lazio the Medieval and Renaissance periods, as well as an adjoining “unexpected” garden decorated with a wealth of sculpture-laden fountains. This complex is owned by CARIVIT foundation (Ente Cassa di Risparmio della Provincia di Viterbo) and has been open to the public since June 22, 1996.
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MUSEUM OF MEDIEVAL AND RENAISSANCE CERAMICS
The museum houses around 200 specimens found in northern Lazio, with examples of primitive “panate,” simple clay objects dating to the 12th century. In addition, there are also various examples of the fifteenth century “green family, ” along with splendid examples adorned with high-relief blue “saffron.” The castrense ceramic collection, of the 16th and 17th centuries, is comprised of bright colors, some of them taking the shape of small quaint cottages painted in “a guazzo” style. Next in the chronological order is a series of pharmacy jars from the 1600s decorated with the coat-of-arms of the hospital and of the City Hall of Viterbo. This crest was also found on the last and only object
in the collection from the eighteenth century. Following are two groups of artifacts that complete the exhibition: the set of ceramic jars and jugs each one engraved with the contents, belonging to a fifteenth century apothecary, as well as Hispano-Moresque pottery from the Barcelona Museum.
THE VITERBO CERAMICS
The city of Viterbo prides itself on a long tradition of ceramic art. The production of ceramic “panate”, mugs, and dishes has been regulated by bylaws, established in 1215, which control the craft and characteristics of each artifact. The process was further developed in the thirteenth century when chemicals such as manganese oxide and copper oxide were used to decorate the pottery in the colors brown and green, then coated in a transparent glaze. Nearing the end of the century, a type of tin glaze was added to the process. This colored the base of the artifacts white, making them stand out brilliantly. These advances in ceramic production have been thought to derive from exposure to southern ceramic techniques, particularly Arabic-Sicilian styles, which have always been treated with tin glaze. It was 1240 when Frederich II announced, from the siege of Faenza, the Seventh Universal Fair of his empire, would be set in Viterbo, an accessible location. (C. Pinzi, Storia della città di Viterbo, 1887, volume I, pag. 370 ) Historical documents of Viterbo state that in 1306, two ceramic art directors even became inducted into the Great Council of the city. However, by the second half of the fifteenth century began an irreversible, albeit slow, decline in ceramic art production, leading to the Charter of 1469. This charter offered rewards to those who increased their rate of ceramic production as incentive. However,from this period, in particular the first half of the fifteenth century, developed a specific characteristic production of the “verde a rilievo” stressing the importance of the “saffron” decoration, which was the best quality and defined by the use of a thick layer of blue cobalt or pearly paint, on top of the tin glaze. Beginning in the sixteenth century ceramics played a fundamental role, especially in the furnishings, and they enriched the colors of ornamental motifs. On the plates and mugs, heraldic symbols and weapons of specific families stand out against their bold backgrounds. The seventeenth century, however, marks the point in history when ceramic art began to disappear due to the introduction of porcelain.
Palazzo Brugiotti in Viterbo , Edizioni Sette Città, Viterbo 2005.