DURANTINO, Guido
(active 1519-1576 in Urbino)

Biography

Guido Durantino (meaning Guido of Castel Durante) was established as a potter in Urbino by 1519 and by 1553 had adopted the name Fontana. His three sons, Nicolò Fontana (died 1565), Camillo Fontana (died 1589) and Orazio Fontana (c. 1510-1576), also took part in the business, as did Nicolò's son Flaminio Fontana. The workshop was one of the most influential in the area during the 16th century.

Guido Durantino 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 istoriato 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 Urbino 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.