Puff the Magic Dragon

rafaellesco dragonThe roots of the Rafaellesco, a classic majolica pattern from the Umbrian city of Deruta, can be traced back to the famous Renaissance artist Raffaello Sanzio. The borders of his frescoes were often decorated with symbolic decorations depicting dragons and mythical animals. During late 16th century Italian ceramicists adapted the stylized designs from Raphael’s frescoes, giving rise to a pattern that is still popular today. The benevolent dragons can be found on tiles, plates, bowls, platters, vases and cups with puffs of wind steaming from their mouths, granting good luck and fair winds to the seagoing merchants of the time.

Over 200 ceramic (ceramiche) workshops and shops are located in and around Deruta and throughout the area you can find chapels, palazzos and basilicas decorated with these exquisite hand painted works of art. One of the most notable is the sacristy of the Basilica of San Pietro in Perugia with the remains of a pavement made from Deruta tiles. Today travelers to Deruta can still browse the cobble-stoned streets to find a piece of majolica to begin or add to their collection. My choice – hand painted espresso cups and biscotti jars although I seriously covet large ceramic wall plates, astonishing statements of color and art that often tell a story (istoriato) or celebrate an occasion (piatti da pompa) and are as evocative as a Renaissance fresco .