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Assortimento di 68 piatti manifattura Antonio Ferretti

Assortment of 68 Dishes
Antonio Ferretti Manufacture
Lodi, Circa 1770 – 1780

Maiolica polychrome decorated “a piccolo fuoco” (third fire)


6 oval dishes measuring 10.62 x 8.66 in
1 oval dish 11.02 x 9.05 in
6 oval dishes 12.59 x 9.84 in
3 concave oval dishes 12.59 x 9.84 in
3 oval dishes 14.37 x 10.43 in
5 oval dishes 17.12 x 10.23 in
8 oval dishes 9.44 x 7.48 in
36 round dishes diameter 9.05 in
Total weight 74.95 lb (34 kg)

State of conservation:

the dishes are intact, except for two restored 23 cm (9.05 in) round dishes, as well as a few slight cracks and small chips on some specimens due to use

This large collection of dishes brings together all the flat shapes typical of the Ferretti production assortments: from the large oval serving plate (43.5 cm; 17.12 in), with a hexa-lobular shape with rounded and arched edges, to the serving plate with a similar border. All the pieces are fully enameled and flat, without feet. Many of the dishes bear the mark of a blue brushstroke on the reverse which indicated, inside the manufactory, the type of decoration to be created on the piece.
Five large oval serving trays, also with raised brim and rounded and arched edges, stand out for their size and the richness of the decoration, showing a great variety in the compositional choice of decoration: in two cases this is enriched by the presence of two main floral groups. The same morphology and decorative richness also emerge in the smaller ovals, some with a slightly more concave shape, as in the case of the three specimens, which in themselves constitute an interesting collection.
Finally, the assortment enumerates 36 round dishes, the reduced space of which influenced the creativity of the painters: all have a more canonical, almost stylized decoration, falling into more rigid patterns than that maintained in the larger works.
The maiolica group constitutes an example and a very articulated sampling of the decoration referred to in contemporary inventories as “fiori alla Strasburgo”.
Not only do various types of wildflowers appear, such as Myosotis or “Forget-Me- Nots”, buttercups, cornflowers, bellflowers, primroses, but also other cultivated species very popular in the 18th century, such as roses, carnations or the valuable tulip; a flood of colors and varieties that made this decoration one of the most requested by the courts and the great noble families of the eighteenth century.
The ornamental design is focused on a main bouquet characterized by a dominant larger flower from which secondary branches with fewer flowers extend; in a more secluded position, complimentary elements, such as small roses and wild flowers appear.
This decorative choice represented a strong point of the Lodi factory, which established itself thanks to the vivid nature of the colors made possible by the introduction of a new technique perfected by Paul Hannong in Strasbourg and which Antonio Ferretti introduced in Italy. This production process, called “piccolo fuoco” (third fire), allowed the use of a greater number of colors than in the past; in particular, the purple of Cassius, a red made from gold chloride, was introduced. Its use allowed for many more tones and shades, from pink to purple.
The Ferretti family had started their maiolica manufacturing business in Lodi in 1725.
The forefather Simpliciano had started the business by purchasing an ancient furnace in 1725 and, indeed, we have evidence of the full activity of the furnaces from April of the same year (Novasconi-Ferrari-Corvi, 1964, p. 26 n. 4). Simpliciano had started a production of excellence also thanks to the ownership of clay quarries in Stradella, not far from Pavia. The production was so successful that in 1726 a decree of the Turin Chamber came to prohibit the importation of foreign ceramics, especially from Lodi, to protect internal production (G. Lise, La ceramica a Lodi, Lodi 1981, p. 59).
In its initial stages, the manufacture produced maolicas painted with the “a gran fuoco” (double fire) technique, often in turquoise monochrome, with ornamentation derived from compositional modules in vogue in Rouen in France. This was also thanks to the collaboration of painters like Giorgio Giacinto Rossetti, who placed his name on the best specimens next to the initials of the factory.
In 1748 Simpliciano made his will (Gelmini, 1995, p. 30) appointing his son Giuseppe Antonio (known as Antonio) as universal heir. After 1750, when Simpliciano passed away, Antonio was directly involved in the maiolica factory, increasing its fortunes and achieving a reputation on a European level. Particularly important was the aforementioned introduction in 1760 of the innovative “a piccolo fuoco” (third fire) processing, which, expanding the ornamental repertoire with Saxon-inspired floral themes, could commercially compete with the German porcelains that had one of its most renowned offerings in the naturalistic Deutsche Blumen. Antonio Ferretti understood and promoted this technique and this decoration, proposing it in a fresher and more corrective version, less linked to botanical tables, both with or without contour line, as well as in purple or green monochrome. After efforts to introduce more industrial production techniques to the sector succeeded, even the Ferretti manufacture, in the last decade of the eighteenth century, started heading towards decline despite its attempts to adapt production to neoclassical tastes.
In 1796 the Napoleonic battle for the conquest of the Lodi bridge over the Adda definitively compromised the furnaces. Production resumed, albeit in a rather stunted manner, until Antonio’s death on 29 December 1810. (M. L. Gelmini, pp. 28-30, 38, 43 sgg., 130-136 (for Simpliciano); pp. 31 sgg., 45-47, 142-192 (for Antonio).


C. Baroni, Storia delle ceramiche nel Lodigiano, in Archivio storico per la città e i comuni del circondario e della diocesi di Lodi, XXXIV (1915), pp. 118, 124, 142; XXXV (1916), pp. 5-8;
C. Baroni, La maiolica antica di Lodi, in Archivio storico lombardo, LVIII (1931), pp. 453-455;
L. Ciboldi, La maiolica lodigiana, in Archivio storico lodigiano, LXXX (1953), pp. 25 sgg.;
S. Levy, Maioliche settecentesche lombarde e venete, Milano 1962, pp. 17 sgg.;
A. Novasconi – S. Ferrari – S. Corvi, La ceramica lodigiana, Lodi 1964, ad Indicem; Maioliche di Lodi, Milano e Pavia (catal.), Milano 1964, p. 17;
O. Ferrari – G. Scavizzi, Maioliche italiane del Seicento e del Settecento, Milano 1965, pp. 26 sgg.;
G. C. Sciolla, Lodi. Museo civico, Bologna 1977, pp. 69-85 passim;
G. Lise, La ceramica a Lodi, Lodi 1981;
M. Vitali, in Storia dell’arte ceramica, Bologna 1986, p. 251;
M. A. Zilocchi, in Settecento lombardo, Milano 1991, pp. 492-496;
M. L. Gelmini, in Maioliche lodigiane del ‘700 (cat. mostra Lodi), Milano 1995, pp. 31 ss., 45-47, 142-192;
R. Ausenda (a cura di), Musei e Gallerie di Milano. Museo d’Arti Applicate. Le ceramiche. Tomo secondo, Milano 2000, pp. 213-220;
Felice Ferrari, La ceramica di Lodi, Lodi 2003.


Cover Photo: Fabrizio Stipari