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MADRID (BUEN RETIRO) CHINA - 1759-1808 (1812)

HISTORY. The royal porcelain factory of Buen Retiro, at Madrid, was established in 1759 by Charles III, when he became King of Spain. This establishment was an offshoot, or, perhaps, it might be better to call it a transference of the porcelain industry undertaken at Capo di Monte by Charles when he was King of Naples. As we have previously seen, in the story of Italian china, porcelain making was a darling project of Charles, upon which he spent great sums of money. When he inherited the kingdom of Spain and left Naples, he brought with him most of the skilled workmen and much of the equipment from Capo di Monte, and the inauguration of the new industry in Spain was a matter of the greatest solicitude to the royal patron.

For the first thirty years the porcelain produced was reserved for royal use and disposal, and even after 1789, when a part of the china was allowed to be sold to the public, the sale was not large because of the high price asked for the wares which were nearly all extremely elaborate. Consequently, even in Spain, the Buen Retiro china is exceedingly rare. Outside of Spain it is scarcely known at all.

At Buen Retiro both soft paste and hard paste porcelains were made in great diversity of forms and the fashions of Capo di Monte or Naples, Sevres, Dresden, and Wedgwood were extensively followed, often with added elaboration and magnificence according to the Spanish taste of the day.

When the French entered Madrid in 1808 they took possession of the china factory and did much damage. After that, although some porcelain was produced in a desultory way, nothing of note was achieved and the factory, which the French had converted into a fortification, was destroyed by Wellington in 1812.

Various marks were employed, amongst them fleur-de-lys and crowns used either by themselves or in conunction with letters and monograms.

At different times, subsequent to the establishment f the Buen Retiro factory, china of a simpler but pleasing character was made at Alcora, Moncloa and Gerona, but these factories were small and their output was very limited. Nor did they endure any length of time.

In the latter part of the eighteenth century a small quantity of porcelain was also made in Portugal, both at Oporto and Lisbon. Specimens of Portuguese china are even rarer occurrence than Spanish china. Buenetiro was the one important establishment in the whole Peninsula, and both Spanish and Portuguese china are so infrequently met with that specimens need scarcely be considered by the collector as possibilities of acquisition.

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