The Montelupo Ceramic Museum
Antonio Gandolfo, Silvia Niccolai
Originally built as a military stronghold to defend the valley below Florence, the mediaeval town of Montelupo is an important centre of artistic majolica production which enjoyed its period of greatest splendour during the renaissance and still today is one of the largest centres of production in Italy.
To celebrate the city’s close links with this material throughout its history, a new Ceramic Museum was recently opened in Montelupo Fiorentino.
Created as part of a complex project to remodel a building dating from 1928 which until recently was home to the city’s primary school, the project aims to restore and enhance the existing heritage on various levels: artistic, architectural and urban.
With its new function as a collective space, the raised square draws attention to the inclined façade delimiting the museum’s hall and serves as a backdrop to the public space, a focal point onto which all the pedestrian walkways converge. The visually subordinated front of the building retains the original design with the ordered sequence of windows which are framed and enhanced by the upper strip of decorated ceramic, an ornamental element specially designed and created by Montelupo’s master ceramists.
Inside the museum, the display areas are arranged on three floors. The ground-floor rooms house the collections ordered chronologically and according to product type, as well as majolicas dating from the late 13th to mid 15th centuries. The upper floor features the renaissance section with numerous examples of the classic decors of the period. The section devoted to the early Renaissance ends in the last rooms on the first floor with grotesque decoration, represented by the tray known as « il rosso di Montelupo », one of the finest masterpieces of Italian majolica from that period.
Designed and built to meet the functional and performance standards required for use as a museum, the interiors have clean styling and strict geometries that create an exhibition structure dominated by controlled colours. The floors paved with cream coloured through-bodied porcelain tile from Edilcuoghi Ceramiche’s Interiors collection complement the walls and ceilings consisting of plaster panels painted in soft white tones.
The display cases are set into the walls so that only the curved surface of the glass projects. Inside, the objects are illuminated by means of a fibre optic system with the lenses oriented directly onto the displayed items.
The ambient lights are set into the screened squares that make up the false ceilings in all the rooms; the natural and artificial light sources are filtered by means of translucent stretched PVC sheet panels.
The objects in this collection of considerable historic and artistic interest are presented with rigorous simplicity in a neutral and almost abstract space where the light coloured surfaces and soft lighting create a warm, comfortable atmosphere, a non-invasive space that is ideal for concentrating the visitor’s attention on the objects on display.