Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Capodimonte Porcelain

(A pair of Capodimonte plates I purchased at an ebay auction)

This is my latest objets D' art discovery.
I was introduced to Capodimonte porcelain for the first time when browsing through Ebay's antique auction vendors. I was very attracted to the 2 decorative plates shown above. I was impressed with the details and colors. However, prior to purchasing the 2 pieces, I had no knowledge of Capodimonte. Naturally, because of the price for these 2 plates, I had to google "capodimonte" and was pleasantly surprise what I learned. I provided a brief history below on the evolution of this beautiful porcelain.

The History Of Capodimonte
Capodimonte porcelain, sometimes written as Capo di Monte porcelain or Capo-di-Monte porcelain, was named for the factory location in the Capodimonte Woods near Naples.The Italian translates "Mount head" or perhaps "top of the mountain".

Capodimonte porcelain evolved as yet another expression of the thirst of European nobility for this material, first successfully copied from the original Chinese in the early eighteenth century at Meissen in Saxony (now Germany). This hard-paste porcelain required an abundant supply of kaolin, first discovered near Meissen, and later near Sevres in France, and near Fuscaldo and Paola in the Province of Catanzaro in Naples (Sicily).

As was the case outside Saxony, Capodimonte porcelain originally was made from soft-paste porcelain. The location of Capodimonte porcelain production moved around throughout the 18th Century as a result of the history of intermarriage of European royalty. Charles de Bourbon was the son of Philip V of Spain, yet he ascended to the Neapolitan throne as Charles VII in 1734. Charles married the granddaughter of Saxon ruler Augustus II, under whose patronage the original porcelain works at Meissen were built. Charles had good reason to be inspired to produce Capodimonte porcelain on the island of Sicily, where he took up residence in Naples. Thus, Capodimonte porcelain came into production, thanks in part to the work of Giovanni Caselli and Livio Schepers, whom the king recruited from the Naples Mint. The king commissioned the well-known Capodimonte Mark.
As musical thrones would have it, Charles later succeeded to the Spanish throne and became Charles III of Spain. As a part of the transition, Charles saw to it that all aspects of Capodimonte porcelain production were moved to a new factory Buen Retiro near Madrid. All aspects remaining in Naples were diligently destroyed so as not to leave any encouragement for copycats to perpetuate the Sicilian production.

In another historic irony, Charles's son, Ferdinand, returned to Naples in 1759 as Ferdinand IV, King of Naples. Sharing his father's passion for porcelain, he built a new Capodimonte porcelain factory in the royal villa at Portici. The Capodimonte porcelain name again became Italian-based.

Perhaps in a spirit of competitiveness, Ferdinand assembled master craftsmen who would produce lavish works as gifts for his father back in Spain. Extraordinary dinner services were also presented to such other monarchs as George III of England in 1785.

At the close of the 18th century, Naples shared the fate of most of Europe in coming under the control of Napoleon Bonaparte. Despite the king's flight to other regions, Director Domenico Venuti tried to preserve the Capodimonte works in the face of the French invasion. Alas, his efforts were mostly unsuccessful.

With the lessening of Napoleonic influence, Ferdinand was again able to return, making attempts to restore Capodimonte porcelain to its former glory. However, by 1816 the Capodimonte porcelain works had declined to the point where elements of production were sold off and otherwise dissipated. Most historians mark this point as the effective end of more than 60 years of Capodimonte porcelain production. Such masters as Tagliolini and others had created enduringly famous products during that period.

The Capodimonte porcelain name, being so popular and associated with such great works, not surprisingly has been resurrected in subsequent years. Again as a result of closely related European nobility, Capodimonte is now primarily marketed by a British company, stating that the works are still Italian in origin "...from leading Italian porcelain manufacturers."

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