In archaeology and art history, "terracotta" is often used to describe objects such as figurines not made on a potter's wheel. Vessels and other objects that are or might be made on a wheel from the same material are called earthenware pottery; the choice of term depends on the type of object rather than the material or firing technique. Unglazed pieces, and those made for building construction and industry, are also more likely to be referred to as terracotta. Glazed terracotta for tableware, and other vessels, is called earthenware, or by a more precise term such as faience which denotes a particular type of glaze.
Production and properties
Terracotta is a very flexible material to sculpt. Pieces can be formed by both an "additive" technique, adding portions of clay to the growing pieces, or a "subtractive" one, carving into a solid lump with a knife or similar tool. Perhaps most common is a combination of these, building up the broad shape and then removing pieces, or adding more, to produce details.
The most common method of production is to take an appropriate refined clay, then form it to the desired shape. Alternatively it may be made with one or more moulds. After drying, it is placed in a kiln or atop combustible material in a pit, and then fired. The typical firing temperature is around 1,000°C (1,830°F), though it may be as low as 600°C (1,112°F) in historic and archaeological examples. The iron content, reacting with oxygen during firing, gives the fired body a reddish color, though the overall color varies widely across shades of yellow, orange, buff, red, "terracotta", pink, grey or brown.
Fired terracotta is not watertight, but surface-burnishing the body before firing can decrease its porousness and a layer of glaze can make it watertight. It is suitable for use below ground to carry pressurized water (an archaic use), for garden pots or building decoration in many environments, and for oil containers, oil lamps, or ovens. Most other uses, such as for tableware, sanitary piping, or building decoration in freezing environments, require the material to be glazed. Terracotta, if uncracked, will ring if lightly struck.
Painted (polychrome) terracotta is typically first covered with a thin coat of gesso, then painted. It has been very widely used but the paint is only suitable for indoor positions and is much less durable than fired colors in or under a ceramic glaze. Terracotta sculpture was very rarely left in its "raw" fired state in the West until the 18th century.
Indian sculpture made heavy use of terracotta from as early as the Indus Valley Civilization (with stone and metal sculpture being rather rare), and in more sophisticated areas had largely abandoned modeling for using molds by the 1st century BC. This allows relatively large figures, nearly up to life-size, to be made, especially in the Gupta period and the centuries immediately following it. Several vigorous local popular traditions of terracotta folk sculpture remain active today, such as the Bankura horses.
Precolonial West African sculpture also made extensive use of terracotta. The regions most recognized for producing terracotta art in that part of the world include the Nok culture of central and north-central Nigeria, the Ife/Benin cultural axis in western and southern Nigeria (also noted for its exceptionally naturalistic sculpture), and the Igbo culture area of eastern Nigeria, which excelled in terracotta pottery. These related, but separate, traditions also gave birth to elaborate schools of bronze and brass sculpture in the area.
Chinese sculpture made great use of terracotta, with and without glazing and color, from a very early date. The famous Terracotta Army of Emperor Qin Shi Huang, 209–210BC, was somewhat untypical, and two thousand years ago reliefs were more common, in tombs and elsewhere. Later Buddhist figures were often made in painted and glazed terracotta, with the Yixian glazed pottery luohans, probably of 1150–1250, now in various Western museums, among the most prominent examples. Brick-built tombs from the Han dynasty were often finished on the interior wall with bricks decorated on one face; the techniques included molded reliefs. Later tombs contained many figures of protective spirits and animals and servants for the afterlife, including the famous horses of the T'ang dynasty; as an arbitrary matter of terminology these tend not to be referred to as terracottas.
European medieval art made little use of terracotta sculpture, until the late 14th century, when it became used in advanced International Gothic workshops in parts of Germany. The Virgin illustrated at the start of the article from Bohemia is the unique example known from there. A few decades later, there was a revival in the Italian Renaissance, inspired by excavated classical terracottas as well as the German examples, which gradually spread to the rest of Europe. In FlorenceLuca della Robbia (1399/1400–1482) was a sculptor who founded a family dynasty specializing in glazed and painted terracotta, especially large roundels which were used to decorate the exterior of churches and other buildings. These used the same techniques as contemporary maiolica and other tin-glazed pottery. Other sculptors included Pietro Torrigiano (1472–1528), who produced statues, and in England busts of the Tudor royal family. The unglazed busts of the Roman Emperors adorning Hampton Court Palace, by Giovanni da Maiano, 1521, were another example of Italian work in England. They were originally painted but this has now been lost from weathering.
In the 18th-century unglazed terracotta, which had long been used for preliminary clay models or maquettes that were then fired, became fashionable as a material for small sculptures including portrait busts. It was much easier to work than carved materials, and allowed a more spontaneous approach by the artist.Claude Michel (1738–1814), known as Clodion, was an influential pioneer in France.John Michael Rysbrack (1694–1770), a Flemish portrait sculptor working in England, sold his terracotta modelli for larger works in stone, and produced busts only in terracotta. In the next century the French sculptor Albert-Ernest Carrier-Belleuse made many terracotta pieces, but possibly the most famous is The Abduction of Hippodameia depicting the Greek mythological scene of a centaur kidnapping Hippodameia on her wedding day.
Terracotta tiles have a long history in many parts of the world. Many ancient and traditional roofing styles included more elaborate sculptural elements than the plain roof tiles, such as Chinese Imperial roof decoration and the antefix of western classical architecture. In India West Bengal made a speciality of terracotta temples, with the sculpted decoration from the same material as the main brick construction.
In the 19th century the possibilities of terracotta decoration of buildings were again appreciated by architects, often using thicker pieces of terracotta, and surfaces that are not flat. The American architect Louis Sullivan is well known for his elaborate glazed terracotta ornamentation, designs that would have been impossible to execute in any other medium. Terracotta and tile were used extensively in the town buildings of Victorian Birmingham, England. Terra cotta was marketed as a miracle material, largely impervious to the elements. Terra cotta, however, can indeed be damaged by water penetration or exposure or fail through faulty design or installation. An excessive faith in the durability of the material led to shortcuts in design and execution, which coupled with a belief that the material did not require maintenance tainted the reputation of the material. By about 1930 the widespread use of concrete and Modernist architecture largely ended the use of terracotta in architecture.
Along with serving decorative purposes, terracotta tile is also a flooring construct. In fact, terracotta floors are found worldwide with some being several hundred years old. The quality of terracotta tiles are directly impacted by factors including the source of the clay, the manufacturing methods (kiln-fired being more durable than sun baked), and whether the terracotta tiles are sealed or not.
Advantages in sculpture
As compared to bronze sculpture, terracotta uses a far simpler and quicker process for creating the finished work with much lower material costs. The easier task of modelling, typically with a limited range of knives and wooden shaping tools, but mainly using the fingers, allows the artist to take a more free and flexible approach. Small details that might be impractical to carve in stone, of hair or costume for example, can easily be accomplished in terracotta, and drapery can sometimes be made up of thin sheets of clay that make it much easier to achieve a realistic effect.
Reusable mold-making techniques may be used for production of many identical pieces. Compared to marble sculpture and other stonework the finished product is far lighter and may be further painted and glazed to produce objects with color or durable simulations of metal patina. Robust durable works for outdoor use require greater thickness and so will be heavier, with more care needed in the drying of the unfinished piece to prevent cracking as the material shrinks. Structural considerations are similar to those required for stone sculpture; there is a limit on the stress that can be imposed on terracotta, and terracotta statues of unsupported standing figures are limited to well under life-size unless extra structural support is added. This is also because large figures are extremely difficult to fire, and surviving examples often show sagging or cracks. The Yixian figures were fired in several pieces, and have iron rods inside to hold the structure together.
In India, traditional terracotta sculptures, mainly religious, continue to be made. The demand for this craft is seasonal, mostly when new pottery and votive idols are required during harvest festival. During the rest of the year, the craftsmen take to agriculture or some other means of income. The designs have become redundant when the same kind of relief and same techniques are used for the different subjects. The subjects and the uses are suggested by the client. This craft requires a strong understanding of composition and subject matter as well as a skill to be able to give each plaque its distinct character with patience.
Pottery is the process and the products of forming vessels and other objects with clay and other ceramic materials, which are fired at high temperatures to give them a hard, durable form. Major types include earthenware, stoneware and porcelain. The place where such wares are made by a potter is also called a pottery. The definition of pottery, used by the ASTM International, is "all fired ceramic wares that contain clay when formed, except technical, structural, and refractory products." In archaeology, especially of ancient and prehistoric periods, "pottery" often means vessels only, and figures of the same material are called "terracottas." Clay as a part of the materials used is required by some definitions of pottery, but this is dubious.
Luca della Robbia was an Italian sculptor from Florence. Della Robbia is noted for his colorful, tin-glazed terracotta statuary, a technique which he invented and passed on to his nephew Andrea della Robbia and great-nephews Giovanni della Robbia and Girolamo della Robbia. Though a leading sculptor in stone, he worked primarily in terracotta after developing his technique in the early 1440s. His large workshop produced both cheaper works cast from molds in multiple versions, and more expensive one-off individually modeled pieces.
Longquan celadon (龍泉青瓷) is a type of green-glazed Chinese ceramic, known in the West as celadon or greenware, produced from about 950 to 1550. The kilns were mostly in Lishui prefecture in southwestern Zhejiang Province in the south of China, and the north of Fujian Province. Overall a total of some 500 kilns have been discovered, making the Longquan celadon production area one of the largest historical ceramic producing areas in China. "Longquan-type" is increasingly preferred as a term, in recognition of this diversity, or simply "southern celadon", as there was also a large number of kilns in north China producing Yaozhou ware or other Northern Celadon wares. These are similar in many respects, but with significant differences to Longquan-type celadon, and their production rose and declined somewhat earlier.
Earthenware is glazed or unglazed nonvitreous pottery that has normally been fired below 1,200 °C (2,190 °F). Basic earthenware, often called terracotta, absorbs liquids such as water. However, earthenware can be made impervious to liquids by coating it with a ceramic glaze, which the great majority of modern domestic earthenware has. The main other important types of pottery are porcelain, bone china, and stoneware, all fired at high enough temperatures to vitrify.
Biscuit porcelain, bisque porcelain or bisque is unglazed, white porcelain treated as a final product, with a matte appearance and texture to the touch. It has been widely used in European pottery, mainly for sculptural and decorative objects that are not tableware and so do not need a glaze for protection.
Glazed architectural terra-cotta is a ceramic masonry building material used as a decorative skin. It has been popular in the United States from the late 19th century until the 1930s, and still one of the most common building materials found in U.S. urban environments. It is the glazed version of architectural terracotta; the material in both its glazed and unglazed versions is sturdy and relatively inexpensive, and can be molded into richly ornamented detail. Glazed terra-cotta played a significant role in architectural styles such as the Chicago School and Beaux-Arts architecture.
Royal Doulton is an English ceramic and home accessories manufacturer founded in 1815. Operating originally in Vauxhall, London, later moving to Lambeth, in 1882 it opened a factory in Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent, in the centre of English pottery. From the start the backbone of the business was a wide range of utilitarian wares, mostly stonewares, including storage jars, tankards and the like, and later extending to pipes for drains, lavatories and other bathroom ceramics. From 1853 to 1902 its wares were marked Doulton & Co., then from 1902, when a royal warrant was given, Royal Doulton.
The American Terracotta Tile and Ceramic Company was founded in 1881; originally as Spring Valley Tile Works; in Terra Cotta, Illinois, between Crystal Lake, Illinois and McHenry, Illinois near Chicago by William Day Gates. It became the country's first manufactury of architectural terracotta in 1889. The production consisted of drain tile, brick, chimney tops, finials, urns, and other economically fireproof building materials. Gates used the facilities to experiment with clays and glazes in an effort to design a line of art pottery which led to the introduction of Teco Pottery. American Terra Cotta's records are housed at the University of Minnesota and include original architectural drawings.
Architectural terracotta refers to a fired mixture of clay and water that can be used in a non-structural, semi-structural, or structural capacity on the exterior or interior of a building. Terracotta pottery, as earthenware is called when not used for vessels, is an ancient building material that translates from Latin as "baked earth". Some architectural terracotta is actually the stronger stoneware. It can be unglazed, painted, slip glazed, or glazed. A piece of terracotta is composed of a hollow clay web enclosing a void space or cell. The cell can be installed in compression with mortar or hung with metal anchors. All cells are partially backfilled with mortar.
Burmantofts Pottery was the common trading name of a manufacturer of ceramic pipes and construction materials, named after the Burmantofts district of Leeds, England.
Ceramic glaze is an impervious layer or coating of a vitreous substance which has been fused to a ceramic body through firing. Glaze can serve to color, decorate or waterproof an item. Glazing renders earthenware vessels suitable for holding liquids, sealing the inherent porosity of unglazed biscuit earthenware. It also gives a tougher surface. Glaze is also used on stoneware and porcelain. In addition to their functionality, glazes can form a variety of surface finishes, including degrees of glossy or matte finish and color. Glazes may also enhance the underlying design or texture either unmodified or inscribed, carved or painted.
Architectural sculpture is a general categorization used to describe items used for the decoration of buildings and structures. In the United States, the term encompasses both sculpture that is attached to a building and free-standing pieces that are a part of an architects design.
Etruscan art was produced by the Etruscan civilization in central Italy between the 10th and 1st centuries BC. From around 750 BC it was heavily influenced by Greek art, which was imported by the Etruscans, but always retained distinct characteristics. Particularly strong in this tradition were figurative sculpture in terracotta, wall-painting and metalworking especially in bronze. Jewellery and engraved gems of high quality were produced.
Pottery was produced in enormous quantities in ancient Rome, mostly for utilitarian purposes. It is found all over the former Roman Empire and beyond. Monte Testaccio is a huge waste mound in Rome made almost entirely of broken amphorae used for transporting and storing liquids and other products – in this case probably mostly Spanish olive oil, which was landed nearby, and was the main fuel for lighting, as well as its use in the kitchen and washing in the baths.
Majapahit Terracotta is the terracotta art and craft dated from Majapahit era circa 13th to 15th century. Significant terracotta earthenware artifacts from this period were discovered in Trowulan, East Java.
Ceramics in Mexico date back thousands of years before the Pre-Columbian period, when ceramic arts and pottery crafts developed with the first advanced civilizations and cultures of Mesoamerica. With one exception, pre-Hispanic wares were not glazed, but rather burnished and painted with colored fine clay slips. The potter's wheel was unknown as well; pieces were shaped by molding, coiling and other methods,
California pottery includes industrial, commercial, and decorative pottery produced in the Northern California and Southern California regions of the U.S. state of California. Production includes brick, sewer pipe, architectural terra cotta, tile, garden ware, tableware, kitchenware, art ware, figurines, giftware, and ceramics for industrial use. Ceramics include terra cotta, earthenware, porcelain, and stoneware products.
Redware as a single word is a term for at least two types of pottery of the last few centuries, in Europe and North America. Red ware as two words is a term used for pottery, mostly by archaeologists, found in a very wide range of places. However, these distinct usages are not always adhered to, especially when referring to the many different types of pre-colonial red wares in the Americas, which may be called "redware".
Ceramic art is art made from ceramic materials, including clay. It may take forms including artistic pottery, including tableware, tiles, figurines and other sculpture. As one of the plastic arts, ceramic art is one of the visual arts. While some ceramics are considered fine art, as pottery or sculpture, most are considered to be decorative, industrial or applied art objects. Ceramics may also be considered artefacts in archaeology. Ceramic art can be made by one person or by a group of people. In a pottery or ceramic factory, a group of people design, manufacture and decorate the art ware. Products from a pottery are sometimes referred to as "art pottery". In a one-person pottery studio, ceramists or potters produce studio pottery.
American art pottery refers to aesthetically distinctive hand-made ceramics in earthenware and stoneware from the period 1870-1950s. Ranging from tall vases to tiles, the work features original designs, simplified shapes, and experimental glazes and painting techniques. Stylistically, most of this work is affiliated with the modernizing Arts and Crafts (1880-1910), Art Nouveau (1890–1910), or Art Deco (1920s) movements, and also European art pottery.