Guido da Castello Durante
Guidi di Nicolò Schippe
Works of Art
Guido Durantino (meaning Guido of Castel Durante), who came to call himself Guido Fontana, is, together with his son Orazio, the central figure in the history of Urbino maiolica. Guido may or may not himself have been a painter, but he ran a workshop which produced high-quality isoriato from the 1520s for the best part of half a century, and which dominates our view of the achievement of Urbino maiolica in the High Renaissance.
The documentary record of Guido di Nicolò Schippe dates from 1516, when he witnessed a document for his uncle Simone. His father, Nicolò "pelliparius" (the skinner), had died in Castel Durante before 1511; Guido probably moved to Urbino, where his uncle Simone had a leather business, around 1515. By 1519, when he married an Urbino girl, he was described as "Guido, the potter of Castel Durante and resident in Urbino, son of the late Nicolò the skinner." Over the following years Guido appears regularly in Urbino documents (including some pertaining to business dealings with Nicola di Gabriele Sbraghe); he was obviously a successful businessman, and became priore of an Ubrino confraternity in the 1540s. In 1523 he and other Urbino potters took on a contract to supply five thousand paving tiles for Duke Francesco Mario of Urbino. In 1530 he was a signatory to an agreement among leading workshop owners to resist a claim for increased wages from a group of craftsmen that included Francesco Xanto Avelli. In 1535 he was prominent enough to win the prestigious contract for a maiolica service for Anne de Montmorency. By 1553 he had adopted the surname Fontana, by which he and his family were afterward known.
His eldest son Orazio worked with him and signed a number of istoriato pieces between 1541 and 1544. In 1565, after a period working for the duke of Savoy in Turin, Orazio set up in business in Urbino separately from his father. Orazio died in 1571, but Guido was still alive in 1576, when he made a new will. [This is an edited version of the artist's biography published, or to be published, in the NGA Systematic Catalogue]
Rackham, Bernard. "The Maiolica-Painter Guido Durantino." The Burlington Magazine 77 (1940): 182-188.
Distelberger, Rudolf, Alison Luchs, Philippe Verdier, and Timonthy H. Wilson. Western Decorative Arts, Part I: Medieval, Renaissance, and Historicizing Styles including Metalwork, Enamels, and Ceramics. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Washington, D.C., 1993: 218.