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Porcelain And Pottery (Part 3 Of 3)

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During the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries much experimental work was carried on in attempts to imitate Chinese porcelain, which had been brought to Europe by then. Documents record that some of the Venetian glass-makers were making trials, but it is believed that they resulted in only a white glass. Of this Venetian ware a few specimens have survived, and are the subject of continual argument.

By 1575 a method of making soft-paste porcelain had been found in Florence, under the patronage of Francesco Maria de' Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany, and this is known in consequence as `Medici Porcelain'. Of the pieces made between the years 1575 and 1587, when the works apparently closed, it has been calculated that fifty-nine survive. Of these, forty-one are now in museums, four are in private possession and fourteen have disappeared over the years. A plate that had been lost, was rediscovered and sold in London in 1949 for 1,100. It is now in an American museum. It may be added that, inevitably, a few forgeries have been found.

Almost all the surviving located Medici porcelain is painted in underglaze blue, and occasionally with additional outlining in dark purple. The mark is usually a large-scale drawing in blue of the dome of Sta. Maria del Fiore, the Cathedral of Florence.


The first factory here was started in 1720 by Francesco Vezzi, it made a hard-paste porcelain varying in colour from grey to white, but encountered financial difficulties and was closed by 1740 or earlier. Tablewares were made, and cups, saucers and teapots are the principal survivors. Most pieces are marked with the name of the city `Venezia' or the abbreviations `Vena' or `Va'. The practice of marking the output simplifies identification, but the mark has been added sometimes to pieces from other factories.

The next factory was opened by two dealers in Dresden china, Maria and Nathaniel Hewelcke. Their venture began in 1758, but lasted for only five years. A condition of being allowed to start a factory was that all their wares must be marked with a letter `v'; which is found incised in the clay and painted red.

The most successful Venice factory was that directed by Geminiano Cozzi, a banker, who opened it in 1764. The hardpaste material was greyish in colour, and all types of wares, including figures, were made. The factory closed in 1812, after many years during which a high output was achieved. Figures and groups rarely have a mark, but other pieces are painted with an anchor in red; usually of a large size, and not to be confused with the very small red one used at an earlier date at Chelsea.

At Le Nove, near Bassano, about twenty-five miles north-west of Venice a factory was opened in 1752 by Pasquale Antonibon, who already made majolica there. After numerous vicissitudes including defaulting workmen, it closed finally in 1835. The wares produced were of all kinds and the paste resembled closely that of Cozzi's factory; grey in colour `with a wet-looking glaze that develops a brownish tone where it lies thick'. The mark used was a six-pointed star, drawn with three short intersecting lines, or the word `NOVE' incised or in relief.

Doccia, near Florence

This factory was started by the Marchese Carlo Ginori in 1735, remained in the ownership of his descendants until 1896, and is still in production. The factory has made all types of wares, many of which are notable for their exuberant modelling and decoration. A series of tablewares moulded in low relief with mythological scenes, coloured and with the flesh tones rendered by stippling was introduced as early as about 1760, and re-issued continuously. Through misunderstandings, and as a trade `trick', the nineteenth-century versions were sold as products of the Capodimonte factory, and this name has stuck to them quite wrongly for fully a century. The Doccia paste is of a grey colour and often shows fire-cracks, the surface is rough and the glaze appears less shiny than many. The mark on eighteenth-century pieces is a star, taken from the arms of the Ginori family, more solid in the centre than the same mark used at Le Nove. The nineteenth-century Doccia copies of earlier wares, known as `Capodimonte', have a crowned `N' in underglaze blue or impressed. Imitations of these copies have, in turn, been made in Germany and France, and some of these are marked similarly.

Capodimonte, near Naples

The King of Naples married a daughter of Augustus the Strong, King of Saxony, who owned the Meissen factory and gave his daughter seventeen table services as part of her dowry. It is not surprising to learn that her husband became anxious to make porcelain in his own country; he succeeded in 1743 and a factory was opened in the grounds of the palace of Capodimonte. Sixteen years later, the King of Naples became Charles III of Spain, and removed most of the workmen and equipment to the garden of his palace of Buen Retiro in Madrid. The buildings were fortified by the French during the Peninsular War, and destroyed by Wellington's troops in 1812.

The Capodimonte ware is made of a creamy white soft-paste, of which surviving examples are usually finely decorated. Figures are rarely seen outside museums; many of them are original models comparable with the best of the eighteenth century. Some of the Capodimonte composition was shipped to Spain when the move was made to Buen Retiro, but this was expensive and attempts were made to find local substitutes. Eventually a good white paste was made, but on the whole the work produced in Spain is not considered to compare either in material or modelling with that done in Italy. In its earlier days the factory made snuff -boxes and other pieces modelled with naturalistic sea shells, and tablewares were often painted with scenes of horsemen at battle. The same marks were used at both factories: a fleur-delys in blue or gold, or incised.


The son of Charles of Spain, Ferdinand IV, King of Naples, started in 1771 a manufactory in emulation of that formerly at Capodimonte. A creamy white soft-paste was used for figures and tablewares, and figures were made in the fashionable biscuit. Some extensive table services were produced for presentation for diplomatic purposes; one sent to George III in 1787 is preserved at Windsor Castle.

The marks are: the letters `RF' in blue with a crown above; and a crowned `N' in red or blue or impressed.



A good soft-paste porcelain was made here from about 1751; at first it was greyish in appearance, but later it became a good creamy white. Both the Sevres and Meissen styles were copied, but much original work was done in both tablewares and figures. A quantity of tableware with painting in underglaze blue is similar in appearance to Worcester, and some of the groups are akin to those of Chelsea. This is not surprising in view of the fact that some ex-Tournay craftsmen actually worked at Chelsea for a time, but it does not excuse the occasional modern practice of adding anchors and triangles to genuine Tournay groups! Painting was often of excellent quality, and a series of plates painted with animals within dark blue and gilt borders compare well with Sevres. Some Tournay porcelain was sold to the Hague factory and decorated there.

During the nineteenth century much forging of eighteenthcentury English and French soft-paste porcelains was carried on at Tournay, and they also reissued some of their own models of earlier date. Genuine marks in colours or gold are a roughly-drawn tower, or a version of the Dresden crossed swords but with a small cross at each opening.


Weesp, near Amsterdam

A hard-paste manufactory was started in 1759, some of the workers were Germans thrown out of employment by the Seven Years War so German styles predominated as regards models and painting. The mark, also, was a version of the Dresden crossed swords but with three dots placed about them. In 1771 the factory was bought by Johannes de Mol and removed to Oude Loosdrecht; a similar paste was used, and the mark was changed to the letters `M.O.L.' incised or painted in colour. A further move followed in 1784 to Amstel and the mark then became the name of that place in black or blue. Popular products of these factories were sets of vases elaborately pierced and sparsely decorated, but with the little painting on them of good quality.

The Hague

A decorating establishment bought unpainted wares from various factories and decorated them, adding a mark in blue of a stork with a fish in its beak. Porcelain was rilade on the premises from about 1776 until 1790 and has the same mark.



A factory was opened in 1763 and started by making a creamy white soft-paste which is now very rare. Two years later, hardpaste was made and this was decorated very carefully in distinctive styles that make the ware some of the most beautiful of its period. Figures are rare, expensive, and many are very attractively modelled and coloured. Little or no porcelain was made after about 1791. The mark is the letter `z' in underglaze blue, sometimes with one or more dots below.

Nyon, near Geneva

This factory, starting in 1780, made a good hard-paste. Tablewares were the principal productions, and the few figures are very rare. The mark is a fish in outline, but it should be noted that a mark resembling this was used elsewhere.


Marieberg, near Stockholm, Sweden

A soft-paste was made here from 1766 to 1769, it is a creamtinted glassy ware and small vases, custard cups and other pieces were made from it. A different paste was later introduced, followed for a short time by a hard-paste. Some figures were made, and more custard cups and mustard pots. The mark is usually a monogram of `M' and `s' sometimes with three small crowns above.


A soft-paste factory operated from 1759 to 1765, but its productions are very rare. The hard-paste Royal factory began about 1771 and is still in production. Tableware, much of it decorated in underglaze blue, was made, and also many figures. The mark is three wavy lines one over the other, in underglaze blue.


The Imperial factory at St Petersburg (now Leningrad) did not begin production until about 1758 and few of the products of its early years are to be seen outside Russia. Large vases were made in the early nineteenth century and some were given as presents to ambassadors and others; they compare well with the work of European factories. Figures and groups of Russian workers and peasants were made, and these are sometimes to be seen. Several factories were in existence in Moscow at the end of the eighteenth century and in the first quarter of the nineteenth: they produced similar pieces to the Imperial establishment.