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Assortimento da caffè con decoro alla barbotine

Coffee assortment with “barbotine” decoration
Manufacture of Pasquale Rubati or Felice Clerici
Milan, 1770- 1780

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


Coffee pot: 7.48 x 5.90 x 6.10 in, weight 1.2 lb
Sugar bowl: 2.40 x 4.92 x 3.74 in; weight 0.5
Cup with saucer: the cup 1.77 x 3.14 in
and the saucer diameter 4.92 in; weight 0.4 lb

The coffee pot bears under the base the label of the famous exhibition of the Poldi Pezzoli Museum of 1964.

State of conservation:

The coffee pot has the addition of a grip lid and a covered chip on the edge; the body is affected by a crack that runs from the mouth along the body and around the belly of the container. The sugar bowl has two restored chips on the edge of the lid and two minor chips visible at the edge of the bowl. The cup and saucer are intact.

The maiolica and porcelain factories of the eighteenth century mainly belonged to great royal or noble families who made the manufacture of ceramic works a sign of prestige. In Milan, under Maria Teresa of Austria, the time period witnessed a real opening to new industrialists who, by virtue of the privatizations granted by the government, assumed a real business risk, giving life, albeit not without conflict, to flourishing factories and to production which was among the most elegant and most requested at the moment and which still today remains object of collection. In Milan in the 18th century, two maiolica factories were active. The first was that of Felice Clerici, from 1745, and the second was opened by Pasquale Rubati in 1756, in competition with Felice, for whom he had been a worker. Upon Rubati’s death, in 1796, the enterprise was continued for a few years under his son Carlo.

The series of objects is decorated with flowers in relief, a subject referred to in the inventories as “alla barbottina”, to indicate the technique used to make it. The decorative motif features some many petalled flowers in relief, partly connected by little manganese branches with thin cobalt blue and copper green leaves and small insects scattered over the rest of the surface.
The ornamentation originates from Chinese blanc de Chine decorations in relief or in any case from motifs from Canton. This style became one of the most sought-after decorations produced in Milan during the late eighteenth-century.
The enamel is thin and blue whereas the polychromy is full and shows a skilful use of the various shades of green and the presence of “ferraccia” red. The flower corollas are obtained by applying thin spheres of very diluted clay, the “barbottina”, then shaped and left to dry.
The coffee pot, with an enlarged, rotund, ribbed pyriform body, has a griffin beak pourer and a shaped handle, decorated in iron red; the lid is slightly raised and surmounted by a button knob (added during restoration.
The oval sugar bowl, with a poded and swollen profile, has a coherent lid surmounted by a pear-shaped knob.
The assortment is completed with an oriental-style bowl, without handle, but accompanied by a round saucer with a high brim and a ring foot.
These are some of the most typical forms of production of the Clerici factory in Milan, even if, at least in the initial period, they were all also adopted by the competing manufacture of Pasquale Rubati. The latter boasted of having used this very decoration: “not found in any other factory”, as confirmed by some well-known pieces that bear his signature (G. Gregorietti, Maioliche di Lodi, Milan and Pavia, exhibition catalog, Poldi Pezzoli Museum, Milan 1964, n. 386), while those known under the Clerici brand are few and probably replacement pieces (G. Gregorietti, Maioliche di Lodi, Milano e Pavia, exhibition catalogue, Museo Poldi Pezzoli, Milano 1964 n. 388).
Various examples of comparison are known in public and private collections. Of particular interest is the comparison with the large group of “alla barbottina” works preserved in the Museum of Applied Art of the Castello Sforzesco in Milan (R. Ausenda, curated by, Musei e Gallerie di Milano. Museo d’Arti Applicate. Le ceramiche, Tomo secondo, Milano 2001 pp. 372-384, nn. 360-362)


G. Gregorietti, Maioliche di Lodi, Milano e Pavia. catalogo della mostra Museo Poldi Pezzoli, Milano 1964, nn. 390 la caffetiera; e 389-392 i confronti;
R. Ausenda, a cura di, Musei e Gallerie di Milano. Museo d’Arti Applicate. Le ceramiche, Tomo secondo, Milano 2001, pp. 372-384, nn. 360-362.

Cover Photo: Fabrizio Stipari