Agalis Manessi

The work lies within the tradition of Maiolica and celebrates this rich historical medium through many diverse influences ranging from the sophistication of Italian Istoriato dishes through to the simplicity of humble folk wares.  She strives for a poetic simplicity through pictorial representation trying to retain a freshness of palette that belies the difficulty of the process. Once dipped in glaze, the pieces become like primed canvasses.

Subject matter is derived from portraits, figures and animal studies drawn from literature, directly from life or inspired by characters from paintings in museum collections; the richness of Renaissance frescoes and the freshness of Fauvist painters inspire a fusion of the observed and imagined.

The portrait dishes are softly coiled, their painted images built up of composite features observed from friends and characters in films and magazines, garlanded within floral motifs. The cat vases too are portraits whose gentle humour is offset by the suggestive poise of their condensed forms, camouflaged within the painted surface. The modelled animals and figures take on a more animated nature, communicating silently yet eloquently some kind of message to the viewer.


Maiolica is a ceramic process developed over five hundred years ago. The red terracotta clay is dipped in an earthenware glaze into which tin oxide has been added to create a white opaque glossy surface when fired. Before firing, the glaze is painted with a range of metal oxides (copper, cobalt, iron, manganese, vanadium etc.) mixed with a diluted glaze solution.

Successive layers of oxides of different strengths are built up on the chalky surface; at this stage the colour bears little resemblance to the fired result. Knowledge of the way the colour is transformed in the firing process has been acquired over many years of testing. Yet even with this knowledge the unpredictability of the end result is ever present; but as the different oxides interact with each other in this almost alchemical process, the potential for disappointment is often outweighed by a range of wonderful colour surprises.

Work by Agalis Manessi

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