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Museo Richard-Ginori
Article by Oliva Rucellai


Carlo Ginori

Carlo Ginori, founder of the
Doccia porcelain factory.

In 1737 the Tuscan Marquis Carlo Ginori set up a porcelain factory next to his countryside residence. Doccia was the name of the place which was located in the borough of Sesto Fiorentino, six miles north of Florence, in Italy. That’s why Ginori porcelain is often referred to as Doccia (to be pronounced as ‘Dotcha’).

At the time of its foundation only two other European hard-paste porcelain factories were operating: Meissen in Germany, and Du Paquier, in Austria. Hard-paste porcelain making was a recent discovery in Europe and a risky technical and economical challenge: Carlo Ginori (1702-1757) stands among the pioneers of this particular kind of ceramic which is even more remarkable considering that the factory he founded is still active today under the name Richard-Ginori. This significant change in company title dates back to 1896 when, after five generations of Ginori ownership and leadership, the Doccia factory passed to Richard, a fast-expanding Milanese ceramic industry. The double name Richard-Ginori reflects the peculiar coexistence of two different identities in the same company: the artistic manufactory and the industrial one.

In 1950 the original factory site was abandoned and a new, more rational plant was built in the plain by the railway, 2 miles away from the old one, which stood at the foot of the woody Mount Morello. In the old factory neighborhood the parish church of S.Romolo a Colonnata still hosts an impressive Ginori painted porcelain altar (1785) which is well worth a visit. In 1965 the Doccia Museum, once located in the 18th century part of the old factory, moved to its present location, in purpose-built premises next to the new plant.

Museo Richard-Ginori

Museo Richard-Ginori della Manifattura di Doccia, main gallery

G.B. Foggini

G.B. Foggini, (after Ferdinando Tacca),
Chained Moor , wax, ht. 40 cm., 18th C.

Among the most treasured sections of the Museum collection is a series of late baroque waxes. They are original 18th century casts by the best Florentine sculptors of the time: Giambattista Foggini and Massimiliano Soldani Benzi. The bronze versions of these works are scattered in Museums around the world.
Carlo Ginori acquired the wax casts and, in some cases, the corresponding moulds from the heirs of Foggini and Soldani Benzi in order to make porcelain sculptures of superb quality.

In the 18th century snuffboxes were among the most highly sought after items produced at Doccia, so much so that during the peak of production the factory had its own silversmith’s laboratory that was dedicated to assembling the pieces.

Being a collector and a cultivated art lover, Carlo Ginori conceived an original series of snuffboxes which were decorated with relief portraits of famous men and women after ancient cameos and carved gems. They were grouped by categories, as Emperors, Poets, Warriors or, as in the one illustrated here, Philosophers.

Snuffbox with relief cameo decoration and bear hunting
scene on lid, hard paste porcelain, approx. 1750.
stampino palte
Plate with ‘stampino’ decoration,
hard-paste porcelain, diam. 24 cm, approx 1750
The so called stampino or stencil decoration is one of the most distinctive of Ginori early production. It remained in vogue throughout the 18th century. The blue and white colour combination clearly imitated oriental prototypes but the elegant flower design was definitely European. This type of decoration was obtained by laying a perforated stencil directly on the plate, and then applying the colour. This technique allowed workers who were not expert craftsmen to produce highly impressive decorations.

Gio Ponti

Bombonnière with a plastic motif of folk dancing on lid, designed by Gio Ponti, hard paste porcelain, ht. 19.5 cm, 1925

No other single artist has transformed Richard-Ginori’s production in as radical a way as did Gio Ponti (1890-1979) from 1923 to 1930. As Artistic Director he planned a renovation that would involve the shapes and decoration of the ceramics, as well as the graphic design of the catalogues, posters, publicity, photos and the logos of the various lines of products. His style is an original and eclectic interpretation of the international Art Déco taste. Modern shapes and patterns are often inspired by Italian cultural and artistic traditions. Archeological finds, classical architecture, Renaissance maiolica are only a few of the sources he used to elaborate his designs.

Giovanni Gariboldi

Teapot from the Ulpia set, designed by
Giovanni Gariboldi, hard paste porcelain, ht. 12.6, 1954

Giovanni Gariboldi (1908-1971) collaborated with Richard-Ginori from 1930 to 1970 and produced an extremely varied range of objects, from limited number series of plates with elaborate relief decoration to functional everyday use stacking objects. The Ulpia set, which was presented at the Triennial of Milan in 1954, is one of his most original and successful designs.

The Museum exhibits thousands of objects, including Ginori tin-glazed earthenware from 18th to 20th centuries, terracotta and plaster models, watercolors drawings and sketches and even porcelain electrical insulators. The illustrated works are just a small sample of the quality of the collection.

Along the hilly side of the road leading from Florence to Prato there are many Villas overlooking the plain of Sesto Fiorentino. Now the area is densely populated but in the past it was mainly occupied by cultivated fields and Florentines aristocrats, such as Carlo Ginori, loved to build country houses with formal gardens on the nearby hills. Two of them are open to the public: Villa di Castello and Villa Petraia.

For lovers of archeology Sesto offers also two important Etruscan tombs dating to the 7th century B.C.

Article and images courtesy Oliva Rucellai, curator of Museo Richard-Ginori della Manifattura di Doccia. © Museo Richard-Ginori.

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