January 23, 2013

Mystery solved. It's Italian!

It's always encouraging to get 'closure' on a mystery piece of antique porcelain.
In this case, it is a small white figure. I bought it on a hunch, liking the feel of the piece. I had no idea what or where, but I believed the when was 18th century.

Standing 14cm tall, it's a sentimental group of a lady& child: mother & son? Or nurse?
She holds his hand as if to stop him running off- a familiar scene to all parents! Her left hand definitely looks chastising.

She wears a broad rim hat, a very distinctive style. Her coat is also very stylish, and spoke of the 18th century to me.

The details are actually rather fine- but hidden under a thick, glassy glaze that pools to a blue colour where thick.

So where was she made? There was enough clues to suggest a Bristol or Plymouth origin- slightly naive, hard-paste and unmarked.
While researching another piece I stumbled across this photo.

Suddenly it all made sense- 18th century Naples porcelain- Fabrica di Napili.
There were a whole series of figures with the same style dress, even the child:

These pieces of early Naples are rather rare. Often marked with a crown over a N, the same mark was unfortunately used on a flood of later pieces. Our piece is fortunately unmarked and genuine!

The figure above is from Francesco Stazzi's book 'Italian Porcelain', and is said to bear the likeness of Emma Hamilton! There is most definitely a possible link, as follows:
In Naples, Ferdinand IV came to the throne. His father, Charles III was of course responsible for the original Naples factory, the Capodimonte factory. When he had moved to Spain, he had moved his porcelain works also, becoming the Buen Retiro works in Madrid in 1759.
Ferdinand followed in the footsteps of his father, and in 1771, he began building rooms for a factory onto the royal palace. Production began slowly, but by the 1780's was producing an impressive range of wares.
Ferdinand was married to Maria Carolina of Hapsburg, the sister of Marie Antoinette. She was extremely good friends with the English Ambassador and his wife, none other than William Hamilton and Emma Hamilton- famously connected to Admiral Nelson. The queen was fond of her husbands porcelain factory, ordering special presents to give to her mother - Empress Maria Theresa- and other favoured people, much the same as Marie Antoinette did at the French Sevres factory her husband owned! So it is not inconceivable that the queen had her beautiful friend immortalised in porcelain.

This item will be release for sale along with hundreds of other rarities, in our
2013 Recent Acquisitions exhibition,
23rd Feburary 2013.