Notebook, 1993-


POTTERY AND PORCELAIN - Glossary - A List of Museums and Galleries - Ceramics - [A materials resource site with links]

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Pottery & Porcelain - Spanish

Buen Retiro Porcelain
There is so little buen Retiro porcelain outside Spain that the proper place to study it is in that country. this fact is remarked by Arthur Lane in his fine monograph on Italian porcelain, which includes a section on Buen Retiro, as an extension of the Capodimonte factory.

When Charles III, Bourbon King of Naples, inherited the crown of Spain in 1759 he transported to Madrid artists, workmen, and materials from Capodimonte, where he had started a factory in 1743.

The new establishment was erected in the grounds of the royal palace of Buen Retiro, and by May 1760 work began there under the administrative direction of Giovanni Bonicelli who in 1781 was succeeded by his son Domingo.

The actual making of porcelain was at first in the hands of the chief arcanist Gaetano Schepers and the artistic director Giuseppe Gricci. Schepers died some time after 1764 and Gricci in 1770, after which the management passed successively into the hands of their sons.

Production was much hampered by difficulties arising from the composition of the paste, a situation further complicated by a feud between the Gricci and Schepers Families. These factors, together with enormous costs, brought about a steady decline. Disastrous experiments between 1798 and 1802 caused the abandonment of soft-paste manufacture, and after 1805 the wares were hard paste and of utilitarian character. Occupation by French troops in 1808 finally brought about the closing of the factory, and an attempted revival at La Moncloa between 1817 and 1849 was of no artistic importance.

The finest period was during the lifetime of the founder, who died in 1788. Rococo and chinoiserie styles were quickly superseded by the early neoclassical [Louis XVI] influence of Sèvres, though the interpretation is unmistakably Spanish.

The earlier paste, which has a beautifully soft brilliance, is often slightly yellow in tone; lattery it becomes of a hybrid variety owing to difficulties experienced with the composition and materials.

Gricci's first great undertaking was the Porcelain Room in the Palace of Aranjurez [1753-5]. Here, the magnificent mirror frames, brackets, vases, groups of putti, and Chinese figures among elaborate scrollwork, remain to the present day. A great chandelier in the form of a Chinaman and a monkey holding a palm tree is now in the Royal Palace on the outskirts of Madrid.

Many of the figures, which formed a great part of the factory's output, were modelled by Gricci himself. Naked infants, often representing the continents and seasons, were grouped on scrolled rococo bases; others are of rustic subjects. Tableware, snuff-boxes, holy-water stoups, and a variety of trinkets were also made.

The colouring is soft and the painting particularly characterized by stippling. Where gilding is used it has a warm and distinctly mellow tone. The eighteenth-century mark was the Bourbon fleur-de-lis, either painted or incised, as at Capodimonte. From 1804 to 1808, it was an MD surmounted by a crown. [p. 478]

Spanish Pottery
The history of Spanish pottery goes back to medieval times, when it was dominated by Islamic traditions, imposed by Arab and Moorish invaders, who brought with them the art of making tin-glazed and lustred earthenware. The best-known and most important type dates, however, from the [p. 478] period of reconquest, when a synthesis of Near Eastern and European styles is seen in the so-called Hispano-Moresque wares.

From the beginning of the fifteenth c. onwards Valencia, and particularly the suburbs of Paterna and Manisses, were the chief centres of the industry. Here, under Christian rule, Moorish potters produced wares decorated in a hybrid style, in blue and white, and blue enriched with gold lustre.

Arabesques and inscriptions in Arabic gradually merged with Christian emblems and epigraphs in gothic lettering; together with bold heraldic devices and foliate patterns of great power and distinction. Human figures were more rarely depicted.

Albarelli and great dishes, superbly painted with the armorial bearings of famous French and Italian families, such as those of René of Anjou and Lorenzo de' Medici, indicate the high esteem in which these wares were held; indeed, it was asserted in a contemporary writing that 'Manisses work was gilded and painted in mastery fashion, with which the whole world is in love--people, cardinals and princes ordering it by special favour, and marveling that things of such excellence and nobility could be made from clay'. Gadrooned and relief-decorated pieces appeared towards the end of the fifteenth century, while arabesques and diapered patterns of Persian origin were still in use.

The diminishing number of coats-of-arms appearing in the sixteenth century prove the decline in aristocratic patronage, and, though the manufacture has continued, there has been no revival of its previous excellence.

An important factory making fašence at Alcora [Valencia] was founded in 1726-7 by the Count of Aranda, who secured the services of °douard Roux and Joseph Olerys, formerly of Moustiers.

On the death of the founder the factory was carried on by his son, and continued to make fine-quality fašence, together with some porcelain, until the latter half of the eighteenth century; after which, nothing of any merit was produced.

During the period of Olerys's employment [1727-37], the style was very similar to that of Mousteirs [see under French Faïence].

Some fine pictorial painting on large panels and oval plaques with moulded frames was done by Miguel Soliva. After Olerys's departure, elaborate rococo forms were adopted, and a recipe for lustre was obtained from nearby Manisses in 1749.

A number of excellent busts were made at Alcora, and a magnificent portrait of the Count of Aranda is in the collection of the Hispanic Society of America, New York. [p. 479]

[L. G. G. Ramsey, F.S.A., ed. The Complete Color Encyclopedia of Antiques. Preface by Bevis Hillier, Editor of The Connoisseur. Compiled by The Connoisseur, London. New York: Hawthorn Books, Inc. 1962. Revised and Expanded Edition.]



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