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Salt cellar

Salt cellar

  • Place of origin:

    Doccia (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1760-70 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Doccia porcelain factory (manufacturer)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Hard-paste porcelain painted with enamels and moulded

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Mr. J. H. Fitzhenry

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Ceramics, Room 139, The Curtain Foundation Gallery, case 24, shelf 8

Physical description

Salt cellar of hard-paste porcelain painted with enamels. In the form of a female human-headed sea-monster supported on a round base moulded with rococo scrolls, with lion's paws on the fore-limbs and fish's tail upturned to support a scallop-shell.

Place of Origin

Doccia (made)


ca. 1760-70 (made)


Doccia porcelain factory (manufacturer)

Materials and Techniques

Hard-paste porcelain painted with enamels and moulded

Marks and inscriptions

In crimson


Height: 9.5 cm, Width: 8.6 cm

Descriptive line

Salt cellar of hard-paste porcelain, Doccia porcelain factory, Doccia, ca. 1760-70.

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

36-37. Two harpies (salt cellar)
circa 1760-1770
hard-paste porcelain painted in colours
h 9,4 cm
under the base both pieces have the number “6”
painted in red
inv. C.31-1910, C.32-1910
gift: Mr J. H. Fitzhenry, Esq.
These objects (cat. 34-37) are inspired by Marine mythology and are characteristic of the production at Doccia between 1750 and 1765; they are mentioned several times in the factory inventories, especially as being part of table centre pieces. In particular various harpy figures are mentioned in the Inventory of Models (LANKHEIT 1982, p. 78, n. 5) and in the Inventory of Moulds where, in the Sixth Room at no. 7 there is “un degiuné di due arpie” (breakfast set with two harpies). Production of these pieces is also demonstrated in the warehouse inventories in Livorno compiled on June 7th 1757, where, on page 17, it mentions: “two satyrs each of which has two sphinxes”. Moreover, in the 1760 price list they mention sirens or sphinxes which are part of a centre piece (“sirene o sfingi, per servire di ornamento ai sortù”) which were sold unpainted at 4 liras a piece; in the same list there are others painted in colours which cost twice as much or a proportionate amount more (GINORI LISCI 1963, p. 308). A figure which is practically identical to cat. 34, 35 is in the de Tschudy collection in the Stibbert Museum in Florence (A. d’Agliano, in LE PORCELLANE EUROPEE 2002, p. 20, cat. 4). Two other similar ones are in the Museo Duca di Martina in Naples. The harpies (cat. 34, 35) are missing the shell which was meant to hold salt or other sweet or salty condiments. The figure in cat. 34 is modeled with particular attention to the facial features. The other two (cat. 36, 37) are shaped so that the shell is supported by the head and the tail. They are set on a small round Rococo base. The type of decoration and the range of colours used would suggest a slightly later date with respect to the other two. Both of the bases have the number “6” painted in red. The presence of numbers painted on Doccia porcelain has not yet been explained and no documents have emerged that clarify their meaning. For some of the painted numbers, Ginori Lisci has proposed a wide chronological range of between 1760 and 1820 (GINORI LISCI 1963, p. 322-323, n. 13, 19). For variations of these figures, see the examples at Ickworth (WINTER 2008, p. 32, fig. 20) and at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York (MUNGER 2007, p. 27, fig. 12).
A. d’A. and N.M.
Bibliography: unpublished

pp. 61-61, Cat. 36
Frescobaldi Malenchini, Livia ed. With Balleri, Rita and Rucellai, Oliva, ‘Amici di Doccia Quaderni, Numero VII, 2013, The Victoria and Albert Museum Collection’, Edizioni Polistampa, Firenze, 2014

Labels and date

Sweetmeat Dish
Mark: "6", in crimson
ITALY (DOCCIA); about 1780
Gift of Mr J.H. Fitzhenry
(Label draft attributed to John V. G. Mallet, ca. 1995) [ca. 1995]


Hard paste porcelain


Painted; Moulded

Subjects depicted

Shell; Head; Sea monster; Scrolls


Ceramics; Porcelain


Ceramics Collection

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