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CAPO DI MONTE CHINA - 1743-1821
CAPO DI MONTE-I743-1759 PORTICI-1771-1773 NAPLES-1773-1821
The Capo di Monte porcelain factory was established by Charles III, King of Naples, and installed in the palace of Capo di Monte in 1743, where it continued in operation till 1759, when Charles III succeeded to the throne of Spain and left Naples. This porcelain factory was a matter of the deepest interest to the King, and tradition says that he often worked in it with his own hands. At the annual fair, in the piazza before the palace, the products of the factory had a special stall and the King was furnished daily with a list of the sales made and the names of the purchasers. When Charles left Naples in 1759 he took with him to Madrid the best models and molds, and about forty of the most skillful workmen.
From 1759 to 1771 operations were suspended. Then King Ferdinand IV re-established the works in the Villa Reale at Portici. In 1773 the factory was again moved and set up in Naples, where it continued to work under State direction and support until 1807, when it was sold to a company. It was closed in I821.
THE BODY. During the first period, only soft paste porcelain was made, and the body was yellowish, greenish, bluish or dead grey in tone, the color shewing con siderable variation. The tinge was not always pronounced, and the ware was translucent.
From 1771 to about 1806 both soft and hard paste bodies were used. After I806, or thereabouts, only hard paste was produced. The hard paste was pure white, hard, translucent and generally of excellent quality.
THE GLAZE. The glaze of the soft paste was soft, rich and satin-like to sight and touch. The hard paste glaze was clear and brilliant without being glittering.
ARTICLES MADE AND CONTOUR. The common impression of Capo di Monte China is one-sided and quite erroneous. People ordinarily think of it as a sort of ware much over-decorated with small figures modeled in high relief, and further accentuated by lavish gilding and vigorous coloring in which pink, rose and purple are dominant. This manner of ware was peculiar to Capo di Monte, it is true, but it was by no means the only thing made there. A few of the pieces responsible for this impression may be genuine, but most of those ordinarily met with are counterfeits, manufactured by the gross to sell to gullible tourists. And by no means all of these counterfeits are made in Italy. As a matter of fact, a great many other and very different things were made at the royal factory, but unfortunately they are almost altogether unknown.
During the first period, besides tableware, vases, jars, flower pots, sconces and the like, there were made numbers of small snuffboxes, patch-boxes, inkstands and similar articles on which it was possible to lavish the modeled and highly colored decoration just mentioned-the kind of decoration that ninety-nine people out of an hundred associate with the name of Capo di Monte. Then, too, special pieces such as consoles, mirror-frames, clock-cases and chandeliers were made. All of these creations were agreeable to the Rococo taste of the age and were generally of more or less pronounced Rococo contours.
During the second period a number of biscuit pieces were put forth in addition to the wares previously enumerated. The contours, especially in the case of tableware and vases, became far more restrained and shewed the increasing influence of Neo-Classic conception. Painted decoration on the flat surface began visibly to triumph over applied modeling.
During the last period, when the factory was in Naples, all the preceding wares were made in considerable quantity, but there was a tendency to increase and emphasise the production of biscuit pieces. With Pompeii and Herculaneum as immediate sources of inspiration at the very doors, it is not surprising to find the Classic trend in contour becoming more and more pronounced.
TYPES OF DECORATION. Both for painted decoration and for decoration modeled and applied, we find great plenty of marine motifs-shells, dolphins, periwinkles, coral, fishes and the like. It has been suggested that some of these popular shell forms more than likely inspired the shell saltcellars not long afterwards made at Bow. There is certainly a striking similarity between the Bow shell saltcellars in plain white and the plain white shell forms made at Naples. Not a little of the early Capo di Monte China was wholly without color; the modeled forms were not suggested by the white ware of Fuchien, but the general type probably was. Some of the white undecorated pieces, without modeled and applied ornament, are very simple and exhibit much dignity and charm of contour.A number of pieces were painted with Oriental motifs interpreted in a very European manner. These were soon succeeded by unmistakably European themes in the way of natural flowers, fruits, birds, figures, pastorals, love scenes, landscapes and harbor scenes. Oftentimes the decorations were painted en camaaeu, crimson, bluishviolet and black being especially favored for this purpose. Small landscapes and harbor scenes were often thus rendered in monochrome, either enclosed within panels and medallions or unenclosed.
Towards the latter part of the century and in the early years of the nineteenth two strong tendencies became apparent-first, a disposition to substitute painting and color on a flat surface, whether in the form of ground colors, carefully executed Classic motifs or landscapes and harbor scenes of a general character, for modeled, applied and colored ornament; second, a pronounced bias in favor of the motifs directly derived from Pompeii and Herculaneum . To the latter tendency we are indebted for the so-called "Pompeian" china which supplied an impulse felt throughout Europe. The cameos and medallions were rendered with exquisite taste, and these as well as the arabesques exercised a profound influence on the china decoration of the age. From the time the factory was transferred to Naples, the revived Classic style in both contour and decoration was followed almost exclusively. There were also many local incidents of sea and mountain, including the various moods of Vesuvius, introduced into the decoration. Grey, green, blue, yellow and Pompeian red were some of the ground colors much used and these, sometimes along with touches of black, afforded admirable foils for Classic subjects in panels and medallions, or for the reserved panels enclosing flowers, birds, country scenes or harbor views. The gilding was always notably good.
THE MARKS. During the first period the mark was the Bourbon fleur-de-lis, impressed in the paste or painted in blue. It was also occasionally applied in red or gold. In the later periods the mark was "N ", usually surmounted by a crown, but sometimes without. It was commonly in blue, but now and again it occurred in red or else impressed in the paste. While the factory was at Portici the marks "R. F." and "F. R. F." occur. The genuine Capo di Monte ware with modeled and applied figures is generally unmarked, and the flesh tints are exquisitely soft; the Ginori reproductions of the same ware a-usually marked with the crowned "N" or otherwise the flesh tints have a stippled appearance.