Picks and Pans Review: Italian Renaissance Maiolica

updated 07/21/1986 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/21/1986 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Think of it as a wedding present of status in 15th-and 16th-century Italy. It's called Maiolica (pronounced my-O-li-ka). Now 70 rare examples of the brightly colored tin-glazed earthenware are touring the U.S. in a show that will delight decorative arts lovers. The plates, apothecary jars and flasks are remarkable for their range of geometric, floral and heraldic patterns. To achieve the most finely detailed work, Italian artisans used brushes made of mouse whiskers. Many pieces tell stories, and once in a while things get out of hand. On a circa 1520 plate, a young woman in a green frock, lifts her left breast out of its bodice. The inscription on the curving ribbon behind her reads: "Take and don't regret it." At the Mary and Leigh Block Gallery in Evanston, Ill. until Aug. 10, the exhibit will continue to Madison, Wis., Brunswick, Me. and Los Angeles.

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