Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Renaissance Portraits Remixed

An interesting article about Italian photographer Mark Abouzeid posing modern immigrants as masterpiece stars of Renaissance painting. Here is the link to  the Huffingtonpost's page: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/04/renaissance-portraits-reimagined-artist-mark-abouzeid_n_3016572.html
Original portrait of Elisabetta Gonzaga (1504-1505) by Raphael, Uffizi
Gallery, Florence. 
The photographer's idea started as a joke out of his frustration by noticing that Florence looks at its past as a static object. 

My mind went immediately to my blog and me as a doppelganger of a popular ceramic portrait that I found in a ceramic art book. By having my portrait done as a Renaissance lady I felt how anachronistic my past could be if I repeated it as easy as that, sic et simpliciter in Latin. Nevertheless that's how my story started. I let first the Renaissance period, my classical past and my family's art heritage flow through me starting from my Bertabella lover's cup. Now it's time to grind everything into fine powder and build something new. I'm ready!

Detail of my lover's cup painted in 2009 by artist and
friend Romano Ranieri.  


Original Posts by Roberta Niccacci -

Join the Facebook Page to Receive Blog Updates 


Now on Twitter

Friday, October 25, 2013


'IVLIA BELLA' (tr. Julia the Beautiful)
Lover's Cup, Casteldurante, first half of the XVI th century, private coll. 

In the Renaissance period in Italy gentlemen started the tradition of offering ceramic gifts as a token of  their love and devotion and to celebrate their bethrotal and any important event in the couple's married life. They were called 'Loving Cups': round ceramic plates with the portrait of the bride to be and a flying ribbon with the young lady's name and bella (beautiful) or gentile (kind) inscribed on the ceramic ornament. 
Sometimes the 'Lover's cup' had a painted portrait of the couple. There could also be a written dedication on the ribbon, a saying or a proverb. 
'UN BEL VOLTO VALE PIU' CHE SENO E ROBA' (tr. A beautiful face is worth more
than breast and possessions),  Lover's cup, Casteldurante,
first half of the XVI the century  (Hermitage Museum)

The ceramic lover's cup tradition started in Casteldurante, Italy at the end of the 15th century. Casteldurante was a  famous Renaissance ceramic town located in Le Marche region, known nowadays as Urbania. Soon after this tradition expanded to my ceramic home town, Deruta. 

Ceramicists had ceramic ladies' portrait samples available in their workshops and lover's cups were made upon special orders by additing custom made dedications to the selected model. As simple as that. 
'OGINI TEN [...] IENE CHI PO' (tr. ?)  Lover's cup, Casteldurante, 1530-1540 (Hermitage Museum)

In Deruta and other ceramic towns in Italy the 'Lover's cup' tradition lasted until the 18th century. Lover's cups were commonly known as 'BELLAs plates'. This may be the reason why it was said that men used to come to Deruta to meet their brides. What was the reason for choosing Deruta? After all there are beautiful young ladies everywhere in Italy and in the rest of the world. It must be some kind of heritage of the BELLA plates. This must the reason. It must be it. 

This thought came to my mind when I met my beloved last year in January with about a thirty years delay. I told him that it was not his fault, he was not informed about this Deruta tradition as he originally comes from Northern Italy: he should have driven towards the river Tiber instead of driving the opposite direction. This is what traditions are for, they make life easier. I was lucky to move to Piegaro and find him myself. I am glad it is never too late and time is a state of mind. Places aren't and I feel lucky that Fortune brought me here at last.                                                                                                                                                                          


Original Posts by Roberta Niccacci -

Join the Facebook Page to Receive Blog Updates 


Now on Twitter

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Contemporary tokens of love

A contemporary token of love: a hand painted T-shirt

Lovers' cups in the Renaissance were tokens of love, the beloved ones wanted to express all their love to their soul-mates with a real piece of ceramics. With the passing of time we have lost this tradition, although its memory is still alive, which is the idea of something to show your love with.
By following this subject an interesting exhibition opened yesterday April 21st  in Corciano, Perugia (Church-Museum of Saint Francis) and will run until May 1st, 2012 in the occasion of the annual event "Primavera dell'Artigianato" (Arts & Crafts Spring Celebrations), this year for its 20th year.

190 different T-shirt are the subject of this exhibition which is using very original structures and contemporary music in the background, what is stunning for its contrast to the romanesque Church-Museum of Saint Francis. For the opening also enjoying a show of young local hip-hop dancers.

The title of the exhibition takes inspiration from the famous slogan of the "Baci Perugina", the Perugina chocolate candies called "kisses", which was "Dillo con un bacio" (tr."say it with a kiss", "express your love with a kiss"). These chocolate candies are also considered as small tokens of love.

Corciano, Perugia: "Ti Amo! Dillo con una t-shirt - Artigianato per Amore" (tr."I love you! Say it with a t-shirt - Arts & Crafts with love") from April 21st to May 1st, Church-Museum of Saint Francis, Corciano, Perugia, Italy. For those who wish to know more, catalogue of the exhibition available, price is 10 euros.


Curiosity: The best traslation of "gift of love", "token of love" is "pegno d'amore".

Original Posts by Roberta Niccacci
Become a Friend of Cama on facebook to receive updates or follow me here

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

February 14th, 2012: Happy Valentine's Day!

If you are dating or you are engaged, I wish you to celebrate with a wonderful marriage; if you are married, I wish you to enjoy your love and alliance for a lifetime. If you are single, I wish you to meet your soulmate within this year. Hope is not a plan but for sure a wonderful companion and never dies, as it goes in Latin " Spes ultima dea". I met my soulmate as of this year, 2012 and before this happened I was in love with love!


Thursday, February 12, 2009

A handsome artist from the Renaissance

What a handsome and interesting man from the Renaissance, the artist Bernardino di Betto, known as "Pintoricchio" ( 1452-1513)! In this picture his self-portrait that you may visit in the town of Spello (Perugia), Church of Santa Maria Maggiore.

Pintoricchio and Perugino, famous Renaissance artists from the region of Umbria, were the artists who inspired the rebirth of ceramics of Deruta at the turn of the 19th century. 

On February 14th I want to go to Spello and see this portrait close enough to enjoy the beauty of a Renaissance art example.

Monday, January 26, 2009

My loving cup is ready!

Personable lovers' cup by artist and friend Romano Ranieri, 2009

January 2009: My test about Renaissance lovers' cups is over! I selected a round plate with the classical scroll/ribbon and inscription of love. Lovers' cups come in many shapes. I am very grateful to my friend Romano Ranieri for painting the plate with my portrait based on an art photo of mine. Meanwhile I found out something very interesting about the name "Bertabella" that brought me back to the history of my mother's family. This is a later discovery, which happened by accident. 

Etymologically everything starts from my first name, Roberta, which was given to me because it was popular in Italy in the 1960s. One of the first soap operas in Italy was called "Una storia americana" (tr. an American story) and Roberta was the good girl. This name bacame popular also thanks to the song "Roberta", by famous Italian singer Peppino di Capri. Many babies in Italy who were born in the decade of the 1960s are named Roberta and Roberto. 

Historically in the Renaissance the name Roberta did not exist, on the contrary "Berta" was the name in use with the variation of "Bertha" since the 6th century AD for aristocratic girls, Charlemagne's mother was named Berta. Additionally "Bella" was the most popular adjective for the "lovers'cups" in the Renaissance in Deruta and I selected it because of the alliteration of the letters "B"s. So by adding Berta to Bella I created "Bertabella". 

Classical lover's cup in the shape of a round plate

Enjoy the Renaissance art story of this Renaissance gift of love. Video from the Metropolitan Museum about the subject of loving cups also available here.

Friday, January 9, 2009


Dear readers, ceramic lovers and collectors,

I am happy to share with you a research I did on the literature available about Italian loving cups. It is mostly based on the book that you see here named "DULCE EST AMARE" (tr.tender is love). In Deruta we are lucky to have two scholars in art ceramics, Professor Giulio Busti and Dr. Franco Cocchi, who are the curators of this fine publication. This book goes back to 2001 and it is still a good reference.
With this occasion I would like to express to Professor Giulio Busti and Dr.Franco Cocchi my deep esteem and respect for their work and engagement in the field of handmade ceramics.

Thursday, January 8, 2009


My dream would be to bring back the tradition of gifts of love in Italy and extend it globally. I would like to make a sampling of loving cups that commissioners can choose from, like they did in the past! I am lucky to have the support of excellent artists in Deruta and my parents whom I thank in advance for their help to make my dream come true.
Your feedback is welcome! 

p.s. I am not sure on how to bring the tradition back if I cannot find the perfect translation into contemporary words, tokens of love that people in love would like to exchange nowadays. Let me go back to the origins first, therefore I will start by testing how I would feel to receive a lovers' cup in the Renaissance style. 

Meanwhile if you like the idea and if you wish to be the first to refresh this romantic Italian tradition in the XXIst century, feel free to contact me. You will receive your customized loving cup directly to your home anywhere in the world. Personable service. Write to: bertabella@libero.it  for your orders. 


for enquiries bertabella@libero.it

In Italy at the end of 15th century gentlemen started offering ceramic loving cups (or gifts of love) to their beloved on specific occasions: weddings, engagements, baby showers and ballrooms. These pieces usually depicted a female bust and a flying ribbon around it with the compliments "bella" (beautiful) or "gentile" (kind).

Writings were various: “Be Ludovica”,”Lorenza B”, “Maria”, “La Giulia Bella”. Sometimes we find writings like ”Orelia B e Momolo suo servo“(tr. Orelia B and Momolo her servant), “Memento”, where “Be” and “B” stand for “Bella”.

In the early examples and later on we may find the name of the sweetheart only or symbols like the heart perforated by a spike, the heart in flames or the two hands tightened together. Indeed the etymology of symbol is exchange, woven.

Therefore the loving was meant to be an exchange of reciprocal love made visible to everybody.

The origin of the loving cups is related to the change of attitude towards beauty and love in these centuries. Love was no longer concealed like it was in the Middle Ages and men wanted to make it eternal and show their feelings.

Loving cups were produced in several shapes, such as plates, spout pitchers, soup cups, amphoras, double handled vases and salt containers. According to the festivity each loving cup had a different shape and usage.

As an example the loving cup as a memento of the ballroom was filled with almond candies and sweets and it was dedicated to a young lady. Apparently this is how the tradition of favours started.

On the contrary the loving cup for the bride was accompanied by a tablecloth with an equal inscription. The married couple would drink out of the same cup to ensure fertility.
In the Renaissance loving cups became very popular and reached their most rich expressions in colours, details and shapes. Local famous artists such as Perugino (1450-1523) and Pinturicchio (1454-1513) were taken as examples.

Local craftsmen took inspiration from these artists and painted beautiful women. They had several examples of “Bella’s portraits so that the commissioners could have a choice. This might be the reason why many women did not match their contemporary sweethearts.

Portraits were painted in blue, yellow, brown and green on a dark blue ground, and covered with a high sheen glaze.

Classical literature was also a source of inspiration for the floral intricate patterns enriching portraits especially when dedicated to engagements and weddings. Some examples of loving cups are painted with mythological stories with loving subjects.

The tradition of loving cups lasted for a long time and we may still find examples in the 18th century. Several changes in styles have occurred. Interesting pieces may be found in private collections and museums.

Monday, December 29, 2008


Today I placed my order for the so called "gamelio" (engagement cup from the Greek word "gàmos", nuptials) by the help of my draft based on an original profile of mine. When the loving cup is ready I will be happy to publish it!

This peculiar style goes back to the first half of the 16th century and represents the period of highest popularity of the tradition of these famous ceramics tokens of love.