ROYAL FRAGILITY

THE ROYAL FACTORIES OF CAPODIMONTE AND NAPLES
11 May 2007 – 26 August 2007

The exhibition organised by the Pinacoteca Giovanni e Marella Agnelli and the Soprintendenza Speciale per il Polo Museale Napoletano, reveals the appeal and arcane beauty of the masterpieces from the Royal Factories of Capodimonte and Naples.

The Capodimonte factory was supported and financed by Charles of Bourbon while his son Ferdinand sponsored the plant in Naples, and the two factories were among the most significant workshops established by the Neapolitan ruling family.

The former was active from 1743 to 1759, and the latter from 1772 to 1806, and they succeeded in expressing the culture and taste of their times better than any other contemporary European factories. The Capodimonte factory produced exquisite rocaille works, borrowing patterns and inspiration from the French rococo art of Watteau and Lancret, the elegant porcelain of Meissen but also the Venetian rococo painting of Piazzetta and Pietro Longhi, and it even reflected the taste for Chinoiserie that prevailed in Europe at the time that inspired Charles of Bourbon when to commission the magnificent boudoir in polychrome Capodimonte porcelain – created for his wife Queen Marie Amalie of Saxony from Giuseppe Gricci, for the Royal Palace of Portici.

The porcelain from the factory of Naples under the patronage of Ferdinand IV includes some beautiful symbols of the neo-Classical culture that was taking hold in the late 18th century as a result of the excavations of Herculaneum and Pompeii, which were unearthing extraordinary remains of sculpture, frescoes, bronzes, and ornaments, offering the artists of the manufactory a range of models, shapes and decorations that would become famous all over Europe.

The exhibition includes about 200 items. Among these the Altarpiece with Crucifix and candlesticks, probably produced by Gricci, the chief modeller for the king, who is considered the author of other refined examples of the output of the Capodimonte workshop. The most important items on display include pieces such as the Tea caddy with still life, decorated by the head-painter Giovanni Caselli. The statuettes and groups of figures in courtly scenes (The Portrait, Gallant Scene with small dog, Lady in a tail coat), and the other figures depicted from daily life, like the masks and the street vendors, reveal how this genre, originally copied from Meissen, was transformed and evolved in the hands of the Neapolitan craftsmen.

Several important dinner services made by the Naples Factory under the management of Domenico Venuti will be on display, including the Ercolanese dinner service, made in 1782, and donated by Ferdinand IV to his father Charles, the Service with popular costumes, begun in 1784 which was intended to demonstrate the varied, heterogeneous panorama of popular costumes in the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, the Service of views of Naples known as the Goose service, made for the court in about 1780 and decorated with views of the loveliest corners of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, and finally, the famous “de Sangro” Service inspired by the ruins of Herculaneum, with precious decorations that differed on each plate.

The exhibition also includes the extraordinary series of biscuits created by the chief modeller Filippo Tagliolini, with subjects borrowed freely or literally from antiquity, such as the equestrian statues of the Noni or the Furietti centaurs, the busts of Seneca and of the ancient Dionysus, the splendid Triumph of Bacchus and Silenus, but also more satirical and “burlesque” depictions of well-known figures of that time.

The exhibition, supported by Compagnia di San Paolo, gives the opportunity to admire a selection of porcelains from the Capodimonte Museum, which cataloguing and publication has been held by Compagnia di San Paolo with the aims of promoting the knowledge of the most representative Italian museum collections.

A number of lectures and meetings focusing on Neapolitan culture will be held during the exhibition.