Rhodes, the Island of Roses
Rhodes is the largest (in terms of both land area and population) of the Dodecanese, a group of Greek islands in the Aegean Sea, not far from Asia Minor. Although the name of the island derives from the Greek word ‘Rodon’ that means rose, lot of legends exist of how the island was named. According to an interesting myth, the island was born from the sea as an Helios’s (Apollo) realm during the period when Zeus divided earth between the immortals. Another myth says that the name came from Rhodos, the daughter of Neptune and Halia, whom Helios loved.
Rhodes was famous worldwide for the Colossus of Rhodes, one of the Seven Wonders of the World. The Colossus of Rhodes was a statue of the Greek god Helios, constructed to celebrate Rhodes’ victory over the ruler of Cyprus, Antigonus Monophthalmus, who unsuccessfully besieged Rhodes in 305 BC. Before its destruction, the Colossus of Rhodes stood over 30 meters (107 ft) high, making it one of the tallest statues of the ancient world. The statue stood for only 56 years until Rhodes was hit by an earthquake that destroyed large portions of the city including the harbor. The statue snapped at the knees and fell over on to the land. Ptolemy III offered to pay for the reconstruction of the statue, but the oracle of Delphi made the Rhodians afraid that they had offended Helios, and they declined to rebuild it. The remains lay on the ground as described by Strabo for over 800 years, and even broken, they were so impressive that many traveled to see them.
Historically, Rhodes was independent for not too many years during the last centuries. From 1310 to 1522 the Order of the Knights of Saint John was settled in the island. Rhodes appears to have gained by their presence, because piracy, widely spread on sea and land, diminished and commerce was rapidly increased.
In July 29th 1522, under the directions of the Sultan himself, the Turks with 200.000 men and more than 300 ships attacked against the Knights in Rhodes and on December 20th 1522 the Grand Master handed over the city and the knights evacuated the island. On Christmas day, a muezzin raised his voice on a prayer for the prophet, officially announcing the incorporation of Rhodes in the Ottoman Empire that would last till 1912.
The Italian landing in Rhodes took place during the war between Italy & Turkey about Tripoli (Libya). Italians desiring to have a base for provisioning decided to occupy some Greek islands. In May 1912 after a short resistance the Turkish garrison surrendered and the Italian occupation of Rhodes was complete. Greek population showed great sympathy to the new comers, whom they see as liberators. Italians in an attempt to upgrade the local economy decided to develop the island from tourist point of view with the creation of thermal baths, new buildings but also to upgrade local economy through the creation of local industries. One of them was the Industrie Ceramiche Artistiche Rodio – Orientali (I.C.A.R.O).
Industrie Ceramiche Artistiche Rodio – Orientali (I.C.A.R.O) – 1929/50
(As information about I.C.A.R.O. & IKAROS are extremely rare, it will be much appreciated if you could share with us photos, cards, articles from your private collections or even email us with anything else you may know.)
In the 16th & 17th century, European travelers including Greek captains and sailors were constantly purchasing Iznik ceramics (with preference to the sailing-ship motifs) from the markets at Iznik and Istanbul. A great number of 17th century Iznik dishes were preserved until the 19th century, in many houses in the Greek islands and especially in Rhodes. Because of this, dealers and collectors from all over the world gave them the name Rhodian style, mistakenly believing that they had been made in Rhodes.
In the 19th century, the specific Iznik style had been adopted by many European ceramists, as for example the Italian Cantagalli factory, French Lachenal and Theodore Deck. In the 20th century, imitations of poorer quality can be also found in Greece by the Athens Kutahia and Kerameikos manufactories.
Industrie Ceramiche Artistiche Rodio-Orientali (I.C.A.R.O) or ICARO Rodi based on the stamp we found on their pottery, was a manufactory producing pottery from 1929 to 1950, inspired by the decorative motifs of Iznik. ICARO Rodi was part of an ambitious Italian project aiming the economic growth of Rhodes Island in Greece during the period of the Italian occupation (May 1912 till the end of the WW2).
The story of ICARO Rodi begins with two young Italian friends and co-students in the ceramics school, Luigi de Lerma and Dario Poppi. Both Luigi and Dario worked in Vietri between 1927-1929, acquiring the needed expertise for the next step, ICARO in Rhodes.
Luigi de Lerma was the technical director of “Fontana Limite”, a factory in Vietri Italy that was found in 1924 (active till 1928) by the German ceramist G. Studemann, for the production of artistic majolica.
Darrio Poppi, was working at the art section of the “Avallone”, a factory for the production of ceramics and pottery art, founded in 19th c in Vietri by Andrea Avallone. In the 20th c the factory failed to revive its manufacturing and in the late 20s production was suspended.
In 1928 (till the beginning of 1929) several young Italian ceramists were invited to Rhodes to bring the knowhow of pottery quality production (materials & techniques had been examined from 1927 at the Regia Scuola di Ceramica in Faenza- today the National Institute of Ceramics) and set up I.C.A.R.O. with the assistance of the government. Official initiation of activities and the opening of the workshop happened in July 24th, 1929 with Luigi De Lerma to be the first technical director of ICARO Rodi. His experience from ‘Fontana Limite” made the ICARO production to be similar to Faenza’s. In the same year he invites Darrio Poppi to be part of the team.
In 1931 ICARO Rodi moves to a new building in the old city of Rhodes (near the spectacular road of the Knights- Via dei Cavalieri) where a Madonna tile and a decorative tiles panel can be seen till today.
Apart from Luigi de Lerma and Dario Poppi a third person whose passion and artistic originality was catalytic for ICARO success, should be mentioned. Austrian potter Egon Huber arrived in Rhodes in 1931, fall in love with the island and decided to stay. He worked at ICARO for many years and probably was still the technical director of the factory after 1950, where the factory continued its production under new ownership. The image of the Madonna of Filerimos (near Ialyssos) is believed to be his creation. Variations of her image in tiles can be found till today in churches and other buildings.
ICARO’s repertoire includes tiles and decorative panels, plates, vases, jugs, figures with the Dodecanese islands traditional costumes, animal miniatures among others.
Decoration includes floral motives (tulips, carnations, roses), animals in movements (lions, dogs, birds and the deer the symbol of the island), the “Saz” leaf that we meet in Iznik plates, and other motifs that include human figures and ships inspired again from Iznik ceramics.
IKAROS (ΙΚΑΡΟ ΡΟΔΟΣ) – 1950/84
In 1947 Rhodes was annexed to Greece and after three years (1950) the manufactory was sold to a local businessman named Kostas Hadjikostantis at a public auction. Although the name was changed to IKAROS, the new owner kept the designs and shapes of the previous manufactory. As was previously mentioned, Egon Huber probably remained as the technical director and Spyros Oikonomidis became the artistic director of the factory.
During the 1st Greek period (1947-1948 and the beginning of 1949) the signature at the back of the ceramics was IKAPO ΡΟΔΟΣ (ΙΚΑΡΟ was written with the Greek letter P that is the English R & ΡΟΔΟΣ is Greek for Rhodes).
After 1950 (2nd Greek Period) we found signs as IKAPOΣ ΡΟΔΟΣ Α201 (The name IKAPΟΣ includes the letter Σ in Greek that is the final S in English and also a letter & a number to categorize the item). After 1955/1960 we found signs as “Hand Painted in Rhodes by IKAROS Pottery A 209” using the English R in the word IKAROS.
IKAROS production was very active for the first years. But the period followed was not easy and the factory came to an almost collapse in 1984. Local businessmen attempted to save the company which finally closed after the tragic death of K. Hadjikostantis and his wife in a car accident.
Today, the I.C.A.R.O. (ICARO Rodi) ceramics with their unique beauty are very collectible and can be found in private collections, mainly of Greek or Italian collectors.
• The Island of Roses and Her Eleven Sisters – Michael D. Volonakis (MacMillan & Co.1922)
• La Manifattura Ceramica I.C.A.R.O. (1926 – 1950) dell’ Isola de Rodi – Marco Masseti (CeramicAntica, Luglio/Agosto 2004)
• Τα Κεραμεικά του Αιγαίου (Ceramics of the Aegean- in Greek) – (Katerina Korre Zografou – Ministry of Aegean 2003)
• Industria Artistica che Risorge in Rodi – Hermes Balducci (L’ Artista Moderno – Marzo 1931)
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