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Florence pays homage to the porcelain population of the Ginori Manufactory

by Andrea Carli

A homage to the Ginori Manufactory and its population of statues. Starting from May 18 the Museo Nazionale del Bargello in Florence will host an exhibition devoted to the porcelain statues manufactured in Doccia and to those statues’ original sources of inspiration.

Founded by the Marchese Carlo Ginori in Doccia near Florence in 1737, the Sesto Fiorentino Porcelain Manufactory, which was to become known as Richard Ginori in 1896, is the oldest such manufactory in Italy and is still fully operational.

Marchese Ginori systematically collected the moulds in the workshops that had belonged to sculptors working from the late Renaissance to the Baroque eras, using them to create the models for his porcelain sculptures. But at the same time, he purchased models from the workshops of the Florentine sculptors of his own day and commissioned reproductions of the most celebrated classical statues from them.

The collection of models for porcelain works that was the fruit of Carlo’s endeavours was subsequently expanded by his heirs and is split today between the Richard Ginori works and the museum adjacent to the factory, which has unfortunately been closed since May 2014. This collection of works is of primary importance for the history of sculpture.

Known to scholars since Klaus Lankheit’s pioneering publication of a late 18th century inventory in 1982 and subsequently illustrated in part in an exhibition hosted by the Liechtenstein Museum in Vienna in 2005 and in a series of recent studies devoted to the history of ceramic production, this collection of sculptural models with their attendant moulds has yet to arouse the enthusiasm of the broader audience of art lovers that is its due.

In this exhibition in the Bargello, the most important sculptures produced in the Manufactory’s early years will be displayed in dialogue with works in the museum’s permanent collection and showcased in innovative juxtaposition with the waxes, terracottas and bronzes that served either wholly or partially as models for the porcelain works.

Divided into six thematic sections, the exhibition will thus illustrate the transformation of sculptural invention into works of porcelain, and the process will be analyzed in original research focusing on individual case studies.

The Museo Ginori has granted the loan of the Medici Venus reproducing the celebrated statue in the Uffizi Tribune, and a monumental Fireplace surmounted by copies of Michelangelo’s Day and Night from the Medici Tombs and specially restored for the exhibition.

Thanks to the cooperation of the Accademia Etrusca in Cortona, the exhibition will also showcase the Tempietto della Gloria della Toscana or Temple of Tuscan Glory, commonly known as the Ginori Tempietto, which Carlo Ginori donated to the Accademia and which has also been expressly restored for the occasion. The Tempietto summarises in concentrated form not only the artistic aims but also the political aspirations of the Manufactory’s founder.

Other select sculptures – some of them on display in Italy for the very first time – have been loaned both by Italian and foreign institutions and by private collectors in an attempt to illustrate the unique nature of the collection in Doccia, which constitutes the superlative tangible memory of one of the most glorious episodes in the history of Italian art.

In addition to acquainting the general public with an exceptional chapter in the history of Florentine sculpture, the exhibition also sets out to draw the attention of Florentine and international public opinion to the fate of the Museo di Doccia.

The manufacture remained in the hands of the Ginori heirs until 1896, when it was incorporated with the Società Ceramica Richard of Milan, a larger manufacturer of ceramics, as Richard-Ginori.

Gio Ponti served as artistic director of the manufacture from 1923 to 1930, producing many designs in the Art Deco manner.

Richard-Ginori maintains the Museo di Doccia in Sesto Fiorentino, which moved in 1965 from its original location, in the eighteenth-century factory building, to a new structure purposely designed to house the collection.

The firm was declared bankrupt in January, 2013. In April the company was acquired by Gucci for €13 million.

(The Workshop of Beauty. The Ginori manufactory and its population of statues, Museo Nazionale del Bargello in Florence up to October 1)