Session: #284

Theme & Session Format

6. Material culture studies and societies
Session format:
Regular session

Title & Content

Innovations, Ideology and Interactions - The Narratives of Early Modern Decorated Earthenware
Material culture has a symbolic value and can be used actively in social and economic relations. The time of the Reformation put focus on the relationship between the individual and Christianity, and the Renaissance challenged the medieval perception of art. These changes often demanded that each person should take a stand in the community as an individual. This position was communicated to the community through material culture.

One medium was pottery. In the 15th and 16th centuries potteries in various regions of Northern and Central Europe started to produce new forms, which can be decorated using new technologies, such as coloured glaze, slip-painting and Scraffito. The interaction between producer and customer after 1500 for a while came under the influence of the big religious and political questions of the time. This allowed expressing certain signals and values and a kind of personal choice of decoration. As the motives used were quite similar all over Europe, they can be interpreted as well-known symbols – both in connection with the bible and with rather profane aspects of life. Later, in the 18th century, also written statements appear on pottery. We must ask ourselves, if the material also was perceived as a kind of “everyday art”, being displayed and placing the owner in a social and cultural group.

This session aims to compare the motifs in a wider European perspective to discuss the question of understanding the decorations as symbols and the objects as art and representative pieces besides its function. Also chronology of the objects is relevant as it reflects the delay of adapting new fashion from south to north, which can shade light to the transport and implementation of ideas. We welcome papers presenting decorated early modern earthenware from all European regions with an emphasis on the motives and their meanings.
Ceramics, Renaissance, Reformation, Decoration, Symbols, art
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Main organiser:
Frauke Witte (Denmark) 1
Tom Wennberg (Sweden) 2
1. Museum of Southern Denmark
2. Gothenburg City Museum