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(məjŏl`ĭkə, məyŏl`–) or


(məyŏl`ĭkə) [from MajorcaMajorca
, Span. Mallorca , island (1991 pop. 602,074), 1,405 sq mi (3,639 sq km), Spain, largest of the Balearic Islands, in the W Mediterranean. Palma is the chief city.
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], type of faiencefaience
[for Faenza, Italy], any of several kinds of pottery, especially earthenware made of coarse clay and covered with an opaque tin-oxide glaze. The term is particularly applied to the ceramic ornaments and figurines of the ancient Egyptians. See also majolica.
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 usually associated with wares produced in Spain, Italy, and Mexico. The process of making majolica consists of first firing a piece of earthenware, then applying a tin enamel that upon drying forms a white opaque porous surface. A design is then painted on and a transparent glaze applied. Finally the piece is fired again. This type of ware was produced in the ancient Middle East by the Babylonians, and the method remained continuously in use. It was extensively employed by the Hispano-Moresque potters of the 14th cent. By the mid-15th cent. majolica was popular in Italy, where it became justly famous through the decorations of the Della RobbiaDella Robbia
, Florentine family of sculptors and ceramists famous for their enameled terra-cotta or faience. Many of the Della Robbia pieces are still in their original settings in Florence, Siena, and other Italian cities, but the finest collections are in Florence in the
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 family. The method is still widely used in folk art.


See G. Liverani, Five Centuries of Italian Majolica (tr. 1960); M. Barnes and R. May, Mexican Majolica in Northern New Spain (1980).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(1) In the narrow sense, Italian ceramic articles of the 15th to 17th centuries with porous painted bodies and thematic decorations on raw and opaque tin glaze that were applied in such a way that corrections were not possible. Majolica was made in workshops in Faenza, Florence, Cafagiolo, Siena, Urbino, and Castel Durante. In Deruta and Gubbio much luster pottery was made. Italian majolica painting, including portraits and many-figured compositions on decorative dishes, plaques, and panels (for example, the works of Nicola Pellipario), and majolica sculpture (works of the della Robbia family) form a distinctive branch of art.

(2) In the broad sense, majolica includes wares with very porous bodies that are made of fired colored clay and covered with glaze. The pottery is characterized by massive form, a fluid silhouette, a brilliant glaze, and contrasting color combinations.

Majolica was produced in the ancient East (Egypt, Babylonia, and Iran) and in the medieval states of Middle, Central, and Southwest Asia. Between the 14th and the 18th century majolica was manufactured in European countries, including Spain, Germany, and France. In ancient Rus’, majolica was known as early as the 11th century. The architectural majolica of laroslavl’ and Moscow reached the height of its development in the 17th century (window platbands, portals, friezes, figures of saints, tile stoves). In the 18th century, majolica dishes, tiles, and small sculptures that primarily had monochromatic decorations on a white background were produced at the Grebenshchikov Plant in Moscow; polychromatic majolica was manufactured in the Gzhel’ workshops. At the outset of the 20th century, M. A. Vrubel’, V. M. Vasnetsov, A. Ia. Golovin, S. V. Maliutin, and other Russian artists made utilitarian majolica articles. In the 1930’s the Soviet sculptors I. G. Frikh-Khar, I. S. Efimov, and others created such articles.

Since the 1950’s many Soviet and foreign artists and ceramicists have worked with majolica (for example, F. Léger and P. Picasso). Modern majolica is characterized by experimentation and a search for new plastic and picturesque treatments of mass, glaze, and enamel. At present the term “majolica” designates ceramic wares consisting of white or colored faience bodies covered with colored glazes.


Rackham, V. Italian Majolica. London, 1952.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


A type of pottery decorated with an opaque white glaze and a colored overglaze; a type of faïence tile.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Architecture and Construction. Copyright © 2003 by McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


, maiolica
a type of porous pottery glazed with bright metallic oxides that was originally imported into Italy via Majorca and was extensively made in Italy during the Renaissance
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005