Francesco Durantino, perhaps the most prolific istoriato maiolica painter of the mid-sixteenth century, stands out relatively clearly from the anonymous crowd of Urbino-school maiolica craftsmen. His work can be identified with some confidence on the basis of a group of signed works, and thanks to recent archival discoveries something is also known of his career, which began circa 1542.
"Francesco da Castel Durante," who is doubtless the same man, is named in a notarial document dated 1543 as a party, with two other
Urbino potters, to a contract of collaboration with Guido di Merlino, who had long been one of the leading pottery owners in Urbino. Two signed plates, painted by Francesco in Guido's workshop, are in all probability products of this collaboration, and it may be that most of Francesco's work in this period was done for Guido. Numerous pieces are attributable to Francesco about this time, many of them dated 1544 or 1545.
A signed and dated wine cooler establishes that Francesco was working in 1553 at Monte Bagnolo on the outskirts of Perugia. Two earlier pieces marked as made at Monte Bagnolo, a dish dated 1547 and a wine cooler dated 1549, are attributable on stylistic grounds to the same hand. Recently, an important series of documents relating to the Monte Bagnolo enterprise was discovered in the archives of Perugia by the late Dr. Giocondo Ricciarelli. These documents give many details of the running of the business and record that Francesco took over a lease on a kiln at Monte Bagnolo from the landowner Matheus Lang in 1547, and continued working there until about 1554. [This is an edited version of the artist's biography published, or to be published, in the NGA Systematic Catalogue]
Lessmann 1979, 183.
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: 223-225.