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VENICE CHINA

VEZZI, 1720-1740; COZZI, 1764-1812

HISTORY. The first successful attempt to make porcelain in Europe is believed to have been in Venice about 1470. It is recorded that a certain Maestro Antonio, an alchemist, made bowls, vases and other small articles which were said to be of a very light and translucent porcelain, quite as good as, or even superior to, the porcelain of "Barbary." In 1508 a payment is recorded for seven bowls of porcellana contrafacta, which evidently means imitation porcelain. It is more than likely that this ware made by Maestro Antonio was soft paste porcelain. None of it is known to exist; nothing further is known of its making. The earliest European porcelain of which visible evidences remain was the Medici porcelain made in Florence.

The next venture at porcelain making in Venice was in the eighteenth century. The brothers Vezzi, wealthy goldsmiths, had acquired patents of nobility. Having determined to establish an hard paste porcelain factory, in association with two other Venetians of rank, they employed Christoph Conrad Hunger as director and began operations in 1720. Hunger had previously worked at Dresden and at Vienna, and had the reputation of being the ablest porcelain expert of the day. Some workmen from Dresden are also believed to have been employed. The kaolin for the Vezzi china is said to have been brought from Saxony, but this seems highly improbable. The chinaware made was of very superior quality and closely resembled the wares of Dresden. Francesco Vezzi died in 1740 and the factory was discontinued.

From 1758 to 1763 there appears to have been a small porcelain factory conducted by a man named Hewelche and his wife, supposed to have come from Dresden. Little is known about this undertaking, and virtually nothing can be stated with certainty.

In 1764 Geminiano Cozzi established a soft paste porcelain factory near San Giobbe in Venice and made a great variety of beautiful wares. The enterprise proved a great commercial success and the factory did a flourishing business until 1812, when it was discontinued.

THE BODY. The hard paste of the Vezzi china was never a cold staring white, but of a somewhat warmer, creamier tone than Dresden china. It was, too, a little more glassy in appearance. Soft paste was also made by the Vezzi. The soft paste of the Cozzi had a slightly greyish tinge.

THE GLAZE. The Vezzi glaze was good, clear and very like that of Dresden. The Cozzi glaze was of excellent quality, but more satin-like and mellow.

ARTICLES MADE AND CONTOUR. The articles made at the Vezzi factory included not only the usual varieties of tableware, vases, flower pots and other ornamental objects, but also a number of figures and statuettes. During the term of Hunger's directorship, 1720 to 1725, the contours closely followed Dresden precedents. After Hunger's departure, the Dresden lead was less closely followed and the contours became more florid and more characteristic of the mid-eighteenth century Venetian phase of the Rococo manner.

The Cozzi factory also produced an highly diversified range of wares, over and above the usual table services and kindred articles of universal demand. Figures and groups, both glazed and painted, and also in the biscuit, were regularly made. By the time the Cozzi factory started, 1764, the excesses of Rococo design had passed so that the contours chiefly reflected the Neo-Classic trend, but with that mellowness and occasional whimsicality often imparted by Italian hands.

TYPES OF DECORATION. At the Vezzi factory, moulded or impressed ornament, modelled and applied ornament, pierced ornament, painting in underglaze blue and with on-glaze enamel colors, and gilding were all constantly used. The motifs were commonly figures, flowers, landscapes, harbour scenes, country scenes, birds, monkeys, and scrolls. Oriental motifs were often employed and were sometimes curiously blended with Venetian motifs. During the late period an iron-red was a favourite color, although underglaze blue and a full palette of enamel colors, along with gilding, were in use throughout the entire period of the factory's existence. At the Cozzi factory, all the same decorative processes were in use. The motifs were in large measure the Neo-Classic versions of those mentioned in connexion with the Vezzi factory, and other purely Classic devices pertaining especially to the later period, although some pronounced chinoiseries were still used, the taste for which seems to have lingered. In color, there was a predilection for iron-red by itself, although all colors were in general use. Some of the decorations were in gold alone. The gilding done at the Cozzi factory was especially fine.

THE MARKS. During the period of Hunger's directorship at the Vezzi factory, 1720-1725 the pieces were unmarked. From 1725 to 1740 the mark in red or blue varied from "V" to "Venezia" with all manner of intermediate abbreviations. The mark of the Cozzi factory was an anchor drawn in red, blue, or gold, sometimes with the painter's initials above it. It is possible that the letter "C" may also have been used.



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