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Maiolica Italian Ancient Pitcher

Versatoio di maiolica

Maiolica pitcher
Antonio Ferretti Manufacture
Lodi, Circa 1770 – 1780
Maiolica polychrome decorated “a piccolo fuoco” (third fire).

It measures:
Height: 8.66 x 8.66 x 4.33 in (22 x 22 x 11 cm)
Weight: 1.13 lb (0.517 kg)
strong>State of conservation:
slight chipping from use at the edge of the foot, mimetic gluing at the top of the loop.

This maiolica pitcher has an opening with a long triangular beak and a slightly everted edge that rises in the back where the loop attaches. This is carried upwards and is composed of two opposite “Cs”, one of which is arched. The ribbed body widens at the base to form a rounded chalice, which in turn narrows into a high stem and widens again into a broad foot, also ribbed, slightly everted and with a concave base.

The surface is covered with thick white enamel and the painting is full-bodied and rich in subject matter. The decoration, concentrated on the front, is composed of a bouquet of flowers and roses accompanied by small flowers and leaves; semis of florets and leaves fill the remaining surface.

This pitcher accompanied the equipment of a complex eighteenth-century table setting and in theory functioned as a vessel for pouring liquids: both, coupled with a tub for washing hands, and for pouring wine into glasses – not present on the table – offered by dedicated waiters to each diner.

The decoration used here is a contoured flower, painted in jet, with a lot of material. It is among the most successful in Antonio Ferretti’s Lodi manufacture after 1760.

There are few similar works known in public or private collections which may lend the container stylistic, although not morphological, confirmation: it is distinguished by the complexity of the shape; indeed, the foot, but not the handle, shows similarities to a work in the private collection of Lodi, thus confirming the use of several molds in manufacturing (F. Ferrari, La ceramica di Lodi, Lodi 2003, p. 276, n. 230).

There is also a spout in a private collection which is more similar in terms of body and foot morphology. It, too, shares with our work the stylistic choice of a contoured flower made with a large number of pigments. However, it has the bouquet of flowers distributed around the sides of the body (S. Levy, Maioliche settecentesche lombarde e venete, Milano 1962, tav. 183).

This decorative style 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 later introduced by Antonio Ferretti to Italy. The 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 started their maiolica manufacturing business in Lodi in 1725.

The forefather Simpliciano started the business by purchasing an ancient furnace in 1725 and, indeed, we have evidence of the full activity of the furnaces starting from April of the same year (Novasconi-Ferrari-Corvi, 1964, p. 26 n. 4). Simpliciano 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, was able to 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 lines, 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).

Photo: Fabrizio Stipari


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., tav. 183;

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,

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, p. 276, n. 230.

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