Maiolica and Porcelain
Maiolica dish decorated in high heat polychrome technique
Filippo Saverio Grue,
Naples, ante 1756
Diameter 10.62 in (27 cm)
State of conservation:
The round dish has a bottom without rims and is entirely enamelled. The decoration covers the entire recto without any interruption and includes the slightly raised brim with a rounded edge and listed in ocher.
The scene represents a group of three characters: two Oriental and a Moor.
A Chinese man in the foreground tries to lift a large package held by ropes, while, on the right, the Moor smokes a long pipe while leaning against a barrel. Behind him another Chinese man, partially hidden by the barrels, observes the scene. In the background, there is a port landscape with ships and small busy figures and further back turreted architecture. In the lower part, two cannon barrels resting on the ground delimit the scene. Behind the Chinese porter, in the bottom left on a block of stone, the signature of the painter “S Grue P.”, Saverio Grue Pinxit, can be found.
Filippo Saverio Grue (called Saverio), son of Francesco Antonio Saverio Grue, was born in 1731 in Atri and worked in Naples as a maiolica painter. His training in Castelli (Abruzzo) was limited to his childhood and adolescence when, on the death of his father around 1747, he was appointed honorary citizen of Naples by Charles III where he moved as a maiolica painter “to the use of Abruzzo” in the Royal factory of Caserta, a position that he would hold until its closure in 1756.
In 1758, despite his previous experience, he was not admitted to the Royal Ferdinandea Factory, but we have news of him in Naples again in 1762 thanks to one tile signed SG and dated. Instead, he was certainly active in the Royal Ferdinandea Factory after 1772, with the position of director of the turners. The exact date of his death, which hypothetically occurred in 1802, is not known.
His works are little known and often confused with those of other Castellan artists.
The dish shows the artist engaged in the reproduction of one of the most sought-after subjects of the time. This decoration had already been introduced in Naples by his father Francesco Antonio Saverio Gue around the 1720s, with an early connection to the chinoiserie. We are in fact aware not only of numerous commissions in this style, but some examples dated 1718 are known: in particular, the Chinese fisherman today at the Paparella Treccia Museum in Pescara and the splendid oval tile from the Acerbo collection, inspired by engravings by Stefano della Bella (L. Arbace, Maioliche di Castelli. La raccolta Acerbo, 1993, pp. 130-131).
On our dish, the main figure, the Chinese porter, is taken directly from an engraving by Stefano Della Bella dated 1656 – and of which a copy is known to be kept in the Civica Raccolta delle Stampe Achille Bertarelli, (general catalog number: 01946790) – which was part of a series of rounds with sea landscapes, already in use in the workshop in Castelli and above all well known to Francesco Antonio Saverio Grue, the father of our painter. To confirm this, the remaining figures, here interpreted in various ways by Saverio Grue, derive precisely from the engraving with various figures (Civica Raccolta delle Stampe Achille Bertarelli; general catalog number: 01983019) that his father had used for the works already mentioned above. But here the painter replaces the oriental smoker with a Moor figure, adding another character behind him. For the figure of the Moor, and especially for the face, it seems that we can suggest the inspiration for the face of the character on horseback and with a turban, but with a profile with an earring very close to our character, also came from Della Bella (Met. Numero di accesso 1986.1232.3). The ships, the port, the landscape, and the architecture with small figures were then an integral part of painting in the manner of Abruzzo, in such a skilful guise that it can be ascribed to the great masters active in Naples, of whom there are still very few correctly attributed maiolica.
Cover Photo: Fabrizio Stipari
L. Arbace, Maioliche di Castelli. La raccolta Acerbo, 1993, pag. LV –LVI.