This maiolica work has the shape of a fish in the act of raising its head and tail. The naturalistic shape reproduces the anatomy of the animal and, between the head and the tail, it has a lid with a lemon cut in half over some leaves as a knob. The body is decorated with a delicate floral composition that recalls some stylistic expressions typical of Venetian manufactures of the late 19th century: Viero, Barettoni, Bonato, Passarin, Zen di Nove among many others. The absence of the mark does not aid in the certain attribution of the work which, however, remains in the Veneto area, most likely in Bassano or Nove, in a time period between the 19th and 20th centuries.
The fish-shaped faience plate has some precedents in Chinese porcelain works created for the Western market for the East India Company. This form was also produced in Europe, but with a small number of specimens. Some highly effective earthenware and maiolica works of the Antonibon manufacture are known, such as, for example, the fish tureen kept in Ca’ Rezzonico in Venice, or the one in the collections of the Victoria & Albert Museum in London (B. Rackham, Victoria and Albert Museum. Catalogue of Italian Maiolica, London – republished with additions by J.V.G. Mallet, 1977 – n. 1249, pp. 411, 412, plate 199). The fish plate from the London collection, datable to 1750, shares the same shape of the lid as ours, but has no pictorial decoration on the body, and is accompanied by a multi-lobed stand with flower and fruit decoration. A specimen similar to that in London, but with a variant in the shape of the lid, has a floral decoration similar to the work in question, but with a different pictorial trait; it was published along with another with different decoration and morphology (R. Ausenda Nove, in R. Ausenda– G. C. Bojani, editors, La ceramica dell’Ottocento nel Veneto e in Emilia Romagna, Modena 1998, p. 89, nn. 7 e 8).
The model represented one of the most successful naturalistic forms in the context of large exhibitions at the end of the nineteenth century and is clearly derived from the manufacture of Pasquale Antonibon; it was certainly produced in one of the artistic factories in Bassano or Nove.
Photo: Fabrizio Stipari
G. Lorenzetti, Mostra Venezia 1939, Maioliche venete del Settecento, tav. XLVIII, fig. 157;
B. Rackham, Victoria and Albert Museum. Catalogue of Italian Maiolica, London (republished with additions by J.V.G. Mallet, 1977) n. 1249, pp. 411, 412, plate 199.