Cipriano di Michele Piccolpasso (1524 – 21 November 1579) was a member of an Italian patrician family of Bologna that had been settled since the mid-fifteenth century in Castel Durante, which was an important center for the manufacture of maiolica. He had the humanist education of his station in life and was trained as a surveyor and civil and military engineer and draughtsman, which took him to Rimini, Ancona, Fano and Spoleto, but his true vocation was as a painter of maiolica, for which he returned to Castel Durante and founded a highly successful workshop
Piccolpasso was also a poet, received a member of the literary Accademia degli Eccentrici in Perugia, where in 1573 he helped found the Accademia del Disegno, one of the earliest academies for Italian artists.
About 1548 he wrote Li tre libri dell'arte del vasajo ("The three books of the potter's art"), which are a storehouse of information on the techniques of maiolica from his practical workshop experience, from the choice of clays and their refinement, the shaping of the body, the composition of the glazes, the preparation of the colors. The treatise was written at the request of the Cardinal François de Tournon, "who spent a whole year there during the time when the French descended into Italy." and who may have had the improvement of French faience manufactures in mind. The manuscript is enriched with his drawings of typical decorative motifs; it was bought for the library of the Victoria and Albert Museum and has been issued in photo facsimile with an introduction by Ronald Lightbown of the Victoria and Albert Museum and the potter Alan Caiger-Smith, an expert on the technical side of majolica ware.
He also wrote an illustrated topography of Umbria, Le piante ed I ritratti delle Città e Terre dell'Umbria sottoposte al governo di Perugia, which was commissioned by Pope Pius IV, by whom he was knighted, henceforth cavaliere. He was buried in the church of San Francesco, Castel Durante.
- Ne quai si tratta non solo la prattica ma brevemente di tutti li secreti di essa, "in which are treated not only the technique but also briefly all the secrets of it."
- Tournon, the "Richelieu of Francis I" was sent to Rome in 1547 as a diplomatic envoy; he spent eight years in Italy serving the interests of France; he returned to France in 1555 but was sent again to Rome until he was recalled at the death of Henry II (10 July 1559) (Salvador Miranda, "The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church").
- An earlier translation by Bernard Rackham and Alfred van der Put was published by the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 1934.
Further reading 
- Cipriano Picolpasso, I tre libri dell'arte del vasaio, A. Caiger-Smith and Ronald Lightbown (eds.), 2 vols (London, 1980).
- ArtNet:Cipriano Piccolpasso
- "Personaggi illustri di Urbania"