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Sgraffito, (from the Italian sgraffire, or scratched, also written as Sgraffiti as plural) is a visual arts technique used in ceramics, pottery, painting and glass in which a top layer of surface colour is scratched away to reveal another colour underneath. Sgraffito wares were produced by Islamic potters and was a technique widely used in the Middle East, influencing Mediterranean ceramics in medieval times. Sgraffito as architectural adornment can be seen on the surfaces of German and Bohemian buildings dating from the Renaissance.

The technique of sgraffito spread throughout Europe from Italy in the 16th and 17th centuries, originating from Italy and being brought to Germany via master builders and architects. As a visual alternative to stonework, sgraffito murals became an artwork in their own right.

In ceramics, sgraffito slipwares were produced in the Po valley, Northern Italy, at the beginning of the medieval period. As the Pisa region became a primary producer of ceramic wares, the style also became traded across north-western Europe.


  • Hurst, John G. et al. (1986) "Pottery produced and traded in north-west Europe 1350-1650". Rotterdam Papers VI. Museum Boymans-van Beuningen, Rotterdam, 30-33.
  • Lamb, J. "'Scratching the surface': an introduction to sgraffito and its conservation in England." Journal of Architectural Conservation. Vol. 5, no. 1, pp. 43-58. Mar. 1999
  • Longworth, Christine. "Buckley Sgraffito: a study of a 17th century pottery industry in North Wales, its production techniques and design influences" Internet Archaeology, Vol 16. Summer 2004 summary
  • Walker, Bethany Joelle. "The Ceramic Correlates of Decline in the Mamluk Sultanate: An Analysis of Late Medieval Sgraffito Wares." PhD dissertation U. of Toronto [Canada] 1998. 446 pp. DAI 2000 60(10): 3562-A. DANQ41525

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