December 22 2021 – Epic Web Studios
Stick your beak into any Italian dinner party and there’s a good chance you’ll see a ceramic rooster pointing its beak back in your direction. Stately, showy, and flamboyant by nature, the rooster has certainly strutted its way into scads of majolica designs through the centuries. But why? Yes, the Italian villages majolica pottery was traditionally made in were largely agrarian. Yes, the rooster’s colorful personality translates beautifully to the inherently vibrant majolica medium. But even though that logic checks out, the origin of the Italian ceramic rooster can be traced back to one legendary event.
Origin of the rooster theme in Italy
Once upon a time in the republic of Florence, there were two rival families — the Medicis and the Pazzis. As the wealthiest and most powerful clan in all the land, the Medici family had a lot to celebrate. And celebrate they did, throwing lavish festivities for virtually any occasion.
While the Pazzi family also had strong influence in the affairs of the republic, they still played second fiddle to the Medici family. Of course, they resented this greatly and brainstormed what should have been a very cunning solution. They would enlist a double agent to convince the Medicis to host one of their signature shindigs in the village of Gallina — then, once the Medici family members and their guards were properly inhibited from their indulgences and excess, they would sneak a team of hired assassins in to pick them off.
The plan was proceeding along without a hitch — until the assassins triggered the chickens. On the outskirts of the village was a yard chock full of roosters, and upon crossing them, the birds erupted into a frenzy. The assassins froze. They panicked. And they were eventually captured and executed. Chanticleerly, a mistake had been made.
The next day, certified party animal Giuliano Medici ordered his artisans to pay homage to that particular villager’s barnyard alarm system, in the form of ceramic pitchers modeled in the roosters’ image. These ceramic roosters were used as wine vessels as the Medicis celebrated their good fortunes that very evening.
Symbolism of the Italian ceramic rooster
After the fortuitous turn of events on that evening in 1478, the grateful Medicis sent each of the peasant families of Gallina a ceramic rooster as a symbol of good luck, protection, and prosperity. Known in Italian as La Brocca di Gallo, the ceramic rooster pitcher grew in popularity over the subsequent 16th century and remains a staple in Italian households today. It has become standard to offer an Italian ceramic rooster pitcher as a wedding or housewarming gift, as a gesture of goodwill (and a foil to potential assassination attempts).
Spotting the rooster in today’s majolica
Roosters and chickens decorate many categories of today’s Italian ceramic tableware, but the pitcher is still the most iconic. Bellezza Home carries a variety of Italian ceramic roosters hand painted in some of the signature patterns of the High Renaissance.
Ricco Deruta/Ricco Italiano
Featuring ornate scrollwork and a royal blue/yellow gold/emerald green color scheme, this style of majolica was inspired by the works of the Renaissance painter Pietro Perugino — especially the detailing of his frescoes (a type of mural in which the paint is applied to freshly laid lime plaster).
The Raffaellesco pattern derives its name from the famous Italian painter and architect (and Perugino pupil) Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino, also known as Raphael. Central to the design is the hand painted dragon, often portrayed with puffs of wind emanating from its mouth. The dragon was thought to bless seafaring merchants with good luck and favorable winds (in addition to looking really nice).
The Arabesco pattern is adapted from ancient Persian calligraphy, and utilizes leaves or petals as a decorative base unit that is “tiled” around the object’s circumference. Amidst the hand painted foliage, you should be able to spot a small bird mirroring the overall color scheme.
Don’t be a chicken — shop our selection!
Bellezza rules the roost in all things majolica, with a broad selection of not only Italian ceramic roosters, but a menagerie of other colorful species and specimens as well. Start your own collection or strut your gift-giving stuff!