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:  for your orders. 


for enquiries

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.