Hand-built from mud and low-fired to harden, earthenware vessels were produced throughout the Americas for thousands of years before the arrival of Europeans. Earthenware covered with a hard, shiny glaze made from lead and tin had been invented in the Middle East. The technique (known as majolica), along with the potter’s wheel, was introduced to Spain by Muslims in the 900s. In turn, Spanish ceramic artists introduced glazes and the potter’s wheel to the Americas in the 1500s.
The colonial towns of Puebla (Mexico) and Lima (Peru) became centers of majolica production. They created distinctive styles that often incorporated a mixture of motifs taken from earlier Islamic, Spanish, and ancient native models as well as from imported Chinese porcelains.
This large majolica basin reveals the distinctive mixture of motifs typical of ceramics made in Mexico during the colonial era (1521–1821). The crowded, delightfully illogical use of space derives from earlier Islamic and ancient Mexican models. The dotted human and animal forms were introduced by Muslims to Spain. The blue-and-white color scheme and the divided panels around the rim are borrowed from Chinese ceramics like the plate seen here.
-- Donna Pierce, 2015
- Cambios exhibit, Santa Barbara Museum of Art, 1992