Lumières or oil lamps, once oil lamps, were present in every home. Their function was closely related to the lamp function.
The production of ceramic lumens declined with the appearance of the oil lamp and ceased altogether with the advent of electric light.
In stately courts, the lumiere were made of bronze or copper, while in common houses they were made of earthenware. The most common form of earthenware lumiere was that of a small circular bowl with a handle and a spout at the rim.
A different form was taken by the 16th-century majolica lumiere in eastern Sicily, particularly those from Calatine.
The lumiere of Caltagirone
In Caltagirone, plastic workmanship, of ceramics, drawing on the Sicilian Baroque tradition, is added to turning by integrating and enriching it. Thus came the anthropomorphic oil lamps.
The idea of the figurine-lumiera arose from the evolution of potters on how to embellish and bring ceramics, which was considered a poor material, into stately environments.
Plastic decoration through elegant figurines was a valuable vehicle for the passage of ceramic lumens from the poor to the noble classes.
Sixteenth-century majolica lumières, exclusively depicting noblewomen in matronly poses, with one arm at her side and the other at her belt, richly adorned with necklaces and tiaras, are basically elegant oil containers, suitable to fully replace metal lumières with more fuel autonomy. In fact, in their bottle-shaped body , originally made on a lathe and then, following frontal molding, cast but still hollow internally, a long wick was immersed that externally exited behind the frontal tiara.
For the capacity, the ceramic lampstand could shed light for a long time, but because of the weight it was troublesome in moving, also it was difficult to fill it, the oil in fact being poured through the same (quite narrow) hole through which the wick passed.
This type of molded ceramic lumiere had a following throughout the 17th century and had to coexist in living rooms with majolica candelabra.
The Lumiere of the 1700s
In the eighteenth century the ceramic lumiera underwent a significant change ,there was a return to the turning of the form and direct molding, without the use of casts. Gone is the heavy, capacious reservoir, and only a small tray made in the head of the lumiera is used to hold the oil.
The empty, bottomless lumiere has a raised rim at the base for the possible collection of oil dripped from above.
In the eighteenth century, thanks to the work of Caltagirone potters, ceramic lamps took on new forms.
Thus there were richly attired ladies, gentlemen, monks, priests, brigands, historical figures and other characters drawn from everyday life.
The rich decoration of Caltagirone’s ceramics allowed these subjects to enter aristocratic homes and drawing rooms, fully replacing metal lumens, which by comparison, although more expensive, were chromatically monotonous and poorly decorated.
The most sought-after anthropomorphic lumiera was and is the lady with fan
and bell-shaped robe all lace , which in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries replaced the austere matron of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
Unlike this one, decorated in blue with a few touches of yellow, the eighteenth-century one is striking for its vivid polychromy, constituting one of the most characteristic works to have come out of the hands of Calatino potters.
It is perhaps for this reason that today, although it has lost its practical function, there is wide demand for it, and the master potters of Caltagirone include it among the main objects in their production repertoire.