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  • Place of origin:

    Venice (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1770 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Cozzi pottery factory (manufacturer)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Hard-paste porcelain painted with enamels, tortoise-shell and mother-of-pearl

  • Credit Line:

    Bequeathed by Walter Harding, Esq.

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Europe 1600-1815, Room 2a, case CA1

The Commedia dell’Arte, was a form of improvised street theatre, which spread from16th-century Italy throughout Europe, and remained popular for around two centuries. Commedia dell'Arte troupes engaged in very physical acting using music, dance and acrobatics in their performances. While the plot was largely improvised, stock characters were used and were recognisable to the audience by their costumes, accents and poses. The popularity of this theatre form inspired paintings and decorative objects depicting the commedia characters.

This figure possibly represents the Captain from the Commedia dell’Arte, typically portrayed as a swaggering soldier who is essentially a coward. It may also be a variation of the Captain, the unscrupulous servant Scaramouche, who largely replaced the military character in the eighteenth century.

Porcelain was made intermittently in Venice during the eighteenth century. The first factory was established by the Venetian goldsmith Giovanni Vezzi in 1720, closing less than ten years later in 1727. The next person to set up a porcelain manufactory was the Dresden merchant, Nathaniel Friedrich Hewelcke, who following the break out of the Seven Years War, fled there in 1757. He applied to the Venetian Senate to make porcelain and was given permission to do so. In 1761 he went into partnership with a banker Geminiano Cozzi and porcelain production started. By the end of 1763 Hewelcke had returned to Dresden however, and following a period of experimentation, Cozzi started to produce porcelain at his own manufactory on the Canareggio in 1765. The Cozzi factory prospered and produced considerable quantities of tea, tablewares and figures until its closure in 1812.

Physical description

Figure in hard-paste porcelain painted with enamels of a man, possibly the Captain from 'La Commedia dell'Arte', on a the plinth of tortoise shell and mother-of-pearl. He strides forward with his left foot and holds out a flower in each hand. His hat, tunic and hose are covered with dark greenish-black enamel laid over a light copper green. Pale-green belt, sword-sheath and wig. Yellow sword-hilt. The small plinth is let into the top of a high tortoise-shell and mother-of-pearl pedestal.

Place of Origin

Venice (made)


ca. 1770 (made)


Cozzi pottery factory (manufacturer)

Materials and Techniques

Hard-paste porcelain painted with enamels, tortoise-shell and mother-of-pearl


Height: 117 mm, Width: 60 mm, Depth: 45 mm

Object history note

In the 2001 Stuttgart exhibition catalogue (see reference below), Reinhard Jansen gives a brief chronology of the Cozzi factory from which the following information is taken.

In 1762/3 the Modenese banker Geminiano Cozzi, formerly in partnership with Nathaniel Friedrich Hewelcke at his Venetian factory, continues experimenting with porcelain production there on the dissolution of Hewelcke's manufactory. He opens a new manufactory on the Canareggio in the parish of San Giobbe, apparently following successful experiments with kaolin from Tretto near Vicenza. In 1765, Cozzi is awarded a twenty-year privilege and financial support by the Venetian Senate after proving that his porcelain is produced with exclusively Venetian ingredients. Production continued for almost fifty years, until 1812, with considerable turnover of all types of wares and figures. The factory was successful enough to survive the upheaval of the French and Austrian occupations of Venice during the Napoleonic wars.

In the 2001 Gardiner Museum publication (see reference below, pps 92-93) an explanation of the character of Scaramouche is given which enables this figure to be identified.

'The character Scaramouche largely replaced that of the braggart Captain in the eighteenth century. he was a Neapolitan valet, fond of the bottle, intrigue, and women, quick-tempered, agile of foot, and had larcenous fingers. He picked arguments and pockets with equal skill, could be cowardly, and was certainly a braggart. The most famous Scaramouche was Tiberio Fiorelli, who , after a successful career in Italy, took France by storm in the 1640s and became a member of the famous troupe of comedians who performed at the Hôtel de Bourgogne. Fiorelli's Scaramouche was distinguished by a black livery, white ruff and sleeve cuffs, and a loose beret. Instead of a mask, he sported a thin moustache, which framed the sides of his mouth. his white-powdered ace contrasted strongly against the black of his costume. These characteristics were adopted by Fiorelli's successor, Joseph Tortoriti, and were still found on engravings and porcelain sculptures of Scaramouche made fifty years later.'

Descriptive line

Figure in hard-paste porcelain of a man, possibly the Captain from 'La Commedia dell'Arte', Cozzi pottery factory, Venice, ca. 1770.

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

Jansen, Reinhard, ed. Commedia Dell'Arte, Fest der Komödianten, Keramische Kostbarkeiten aus den Museen der Welt Stuttgart: Arnoldsche, 2001, for two Commedia dell'Arte models, Harlequin by Cozzi (C.179-1931) and Brighella by Cozzi or Doccia (C.176-1931), loaned to the exhibition by the Victoria and Albert Museum, see Cat. 271 and 272.
Chilton, Meredith. Harlequin Unmasked: The George R. Gardiner Museum of Ceramic Art with Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 2001. ISBN 0300090099. Publication on the occasion of the exhibition, includes exhibition catalogue. For an account of the Commedia character Scaramouche who was replaced by The Captain, see pp. 92-93

Labels and date

Figure from The Italian Comedy,
Perhaps the Captain
Porcelain, the plinth of tortoiseshell and
ITALY (VENICE, COZZI); about 1770
(Label draft attributed to John V. G. Mallet, ca. 1995) [ca. 1995]


Hard paste porcelain; Tortoise shell; Mother of pearl



Subjects depicted

Flowers; Man


Ceramics; Porcelain


Ceramics Collection

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