Dish thumbnail 1
Dish thumbnail 2
Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Ceramics, Room 139, The Curtain Foundation Gallery

Dish

ca. 1575-1587 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place of origin

Small quantities of Chinese porcelain reached Europe in the fifteenth century and entered the treasure cabinets of princes. The hard white translucent body and painted blue decoration of these rare imports prompted several attempts to imitate them at the courts of sixteenth century Italy. The only successful attempt for which we can identify the resultant wares was made at the Florentine court of the Grand Duke Francesco Marie de Medici (1541-1587), a noted collector of Chinese blue-and-white. The Duke was closely involved in experimental work, which spanned a decade before production was first recorded in 1575. He worked in collaboration with the painter Bernardo Buontalenti (1536-1608), a potter from northern Italy, and a ‘Levantine’ (a native of the Eastern Mediterranean), the last of whom is said to have ‘showed him the way to success.’ Medici porcelain is a soft-paste (imitation) porcelain made with white clay and ground glass, and is technically similar to the quartz-based ‘fritwares’ of the Middle East. Evidently the ‘Levantine’ was familiar with the materials and manufacturing processes of Middle Eastern ceramics, most probably Turkish pottery, which was highly prized and occasionally copied in sixteenth-century Italy. However, the painted decoration of ‘Medici porcelain’ is largely derived from Chinese porcelain, the design here being loosely based on dishes of around 1525 to 1550. Only about 60 examples of ‘Medici porcelain’ survive today, many of them with flaws indicative of their experimental nature. Despite its rarity Medici porcelain was probably intended for use, rather than display. Production may have continued after the Duke’s death, as a new kiln was constructed in 1618.


Object details
Categories
Object type
Materials and techniques
Soft-paste 'Medici porcelain' painted with blue enamel
Brief description
Dish of soft-paste 'Medici porcelain', made in Florence, ca. 1575-1587.
Physical description
Dish of soft-paste 'Medici porcelain' painted with blue enamel and black outline. Deep well with a narrow flattened rim and pronounced foot-ring. In the middle is a medallion with a spray of daisies. The border is divided into long panels each containing a daisy and leaves. On the back are alternate daisies and thunderbolts widely spaced.
Dimensions
  • Diameter: 24.8cm
Marks and inscriptions
The Dome over 'F' (Painted)
Gallery label
Dish Soft-paste 'Medici Porcelain' Made in Florence about 1575-1587 Painted mark: the Dome over F Given by Eric M. Browett in memory of Ada M. Browett C.133-1937 (Label draft attributed to John V. G. Mallet, ca. 1995)(ca. 1995)
Credit line
Given by Mr. Eric M. Browett in memory of his wife Ada Mary Browett
Subjects depicted
Summary
Small quantities of Chinese porcelain reached Europe in the fifteenth century and entered the treasure cabinets of princes. The hard white translucent body and painted blue decoration of these rare imports prompted several attempts to imitate them at the courts of sixteenth century Italy. The only successful attempt for which we can identify the resultant wares was made at the Florentine court of the Grand Duke Francesco Marie de Medici (1541-1587), a noted collector of Chinese blue-and-white. The Duke was closely involved in experimental work, which spanned a decade before production was first recorded in 1575. He worked in collaboration with the painter Bernardo Buontalenti (1536-1608), a potter from northern Italy, and a ‘Levantine’ (a native of the Eastern Mediterranean), the last of whom is said to have ‘showed him the way to success.’ Medici porcelain is a soft-paste (imitation) porcelain made with white clay and ground glass, and is technically similar to the quartz-based ‘fritwares’ of the Middle East. Evidently the ‘Levantine’ was familiar with the materials and manufacturing processes of Middle Eastern ceramics, most probably Turkish pottery, which was highly prized and occasionally copied in sixteenth-century Italy. However, the painted decoration of ‘Medici porcelain’ is largely derived from Chinese porcelain, the design here being loosely based on dishes of around 1525 to 1550. Only about 60 examples of ‘Medici porcelain’ survive today, many of them with flaws indicative of their experimental nature. Despite its rarity Medici porcelain was probably intended for use, rather than display. Production may have continued after the Duke’s death, as a new kiln was constructed in 1618.
Bibliographic reference
Passion for Porcelain: masterpieces of ceramics from the British Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum.pp.176-177
Collection
Accession number
C.133-1937

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Record createdJune 24, 2009
Record URL
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