Continental Porcelain Factories - Florence. Venice


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 hard-paste 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.

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