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Piccolo vassoio ovale

Small oval tray
Felice Clerici Manufactory 1745-1780
Milan, Circa 1770-1780

Maiolica polychrome

0.82 x 8.66 in (27.5 x 22 cm); weight 0.4 lb (170 g)

State of conservation:

he dish has been broken in half, but no additional paint has been applied to the surface. It also has a chip on the right edge. .

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 motif 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 shape and decoration of this tray belongs to the production of the Milanese manufacture of Felice Clerici and clearly documents not only an adherence to oriental-inspired decorative models, but also the accuracy of formal and iconographic research. As Raffaella Ausenda states, this is evident not only “in the decorative formula, but also in the appearance of the material” (R. Ausenda in R. Ausenda, Museo d’Arti Applicate, Le Ceramiche, Tomo II, Milano 2001, p. 235 n. 263, and related bibliography). The tray has an oval shape and a mixtilinear edge. It is coated with slightly blue enamel and the decoration, except for the thin manganese line on the edge, is done entirely in cobalt blue. In the center of the well, the highly refined decoration shows a composition with a tall vase on a pedestal accompanied by books, scrolls, containers, ribbons and lotus flowers, as well as a butterfly with Western characteristics. This is much closer to the Clerici specimens than to the original Chinese ones. An open band on the flounce introduces the wide and wavy brim, in turn decorated with peach blossoms in groups of three, arranged at the cardinal points. This decorative subject, which finds illustrious precedents in many Chinese specimens, and which was also interpreted by the factories of Delft and Rouen, is known in Chinese art as “decoration of the hundred antiquities” (po-ku), a definition with which they indicated one hundred objects with a strong symbolic weight. The gu vase with a branch of flowers is generally linked to qi, the vital energy; the container from which the ribbons come out refers to the ancient ceremonial vases that symbolize piety and respect for ancestors. The stacks of bound books and scrolls remind us of the importance of calligraphic art, writing and study, activities of fundamental importance for the literate. This rare Milanese production is characteristic of Felice Clerici’s factory and is comparable with some published examples. A precise comparison is represented by a specimen (inv. 1726) kept at the Museum of Applied Arts at Castello Sforzesco in Milan (R. Ausenda in R. Ausenda, Museo d’Arti Applicate, Le Ceramiche, Tomo II, Milano 2001, pp. 233-235 n. 263, and related bibliography).
R. Ausenda in R. Ausenda, Museo d’Arti Applicate, Le Ceramiche, Tomo II, Milano 2001, pp. 233-235 n. 263, and related bibliography.