Crown and Neapolitan N Logo
The Crown and Neapolitan
N, was originally painted or impressed on porcelain and ceramics produced
at the Royal Factory in Naples from 1759 to 1780 and was synonymous with
the finest quality Neapolitan porcelain and ceramics from that period
onwards. However, the logo, in the present day, is not necessarily
a guarantee of porcelain or ceramic quality. Neither is it a guarantee
that the product is in fact porcelain or ceramic.
Crown and N in blue is found on most Capo-di-Monte models, usually
in addition to a backstamp or factory mark or name. The Crown and
N is not fully protected and as the name Capo-di-Monte now can indicate
a "Style of Capo-di-Monte". It is most important that connoisseurs
only collect models from the handful of best factories and look for
the backstamp that indicates the figure's pedigree.
The History of
The origin of Capodimonte
porcelain dates back to the early eighteenth century and geographically
to the Kingdom of Naples. The father of Capodimonte porcelain is considered
to be Charles of Bourbon (1716-1788) son of Philip V of Spain and his
second wife, the Italian, Elizabeth Farnese. Charles was coronated King
of Naples and Sicily on August 3rd. 1734 in Palermo Cathedral becoming
Charles VII (1738-1759). In 1738 he married Maria Amalia daughter of the
King of Saxony, Augustus III of Poland and granddaughter of Augustus II,
Elector of Saxony and King of Poland and founder of the first European
hard paste porcelain factory in Meissen in 1710.
It was from this union
that Charles' interest in porcelain production in Naples first sprang.
His desire was to create a porcelain production of a quality comparable
with the factory in Saxony, whose methods and ingredients were only known
by the chemist Bottiger. Charles initially allocated a small building
in the Royal Palace to be dedicated to porcelain production under the
direction of Giovanni Caselli and the chemist Livio Ottavio Schepers,
who had originally worked at the Neapolitan Mint.
In spite of many efforts,
including those underhand, the formula for porcelain remained a mystery.
From the many investigations Charles finally concluded that the conditions
in this little building were not suitable for porcelain production, there
being insufficient space for the ovens and driers. In 1743 Charles then
commissioned the construction of a new factory in the Royal Wood of Capodimonte,
the architect being Ferdinando Sanfelice.
After much research
throughout Italy to find a suitable substance to produce porcelain equal
in quality to Chinese porcelain, deposits of kaolin, similar to that used
by the Chinese, were discovered at Fuscaldo and Paola in the Province
of Catanzaro. Immediately Charles ordered brushes and all painting equipment
from Dresda and gold, used for the gilding, was obtained from crushed
Ungheris and Zecchinis. Charles also employed the chemist and son of Livio
Schepers, Gaetano Schepers, who perfected the porcelain paste.
Full production began
with a workforce consisting of artistic director of miniatures, Giovanni
Caselli, painter of the Royal Camera, his niece Maria Caselli painted
flowers and landscapes, Giuseppe della Torre, Luigi Restile and Giacomo
d'Avolio painted animals and battle scenes, Nicola Senzapaura painted
villages and scenes with little figures and Giacomo Nani painted animals
and fruit. The miniaturists Giovanni Sigismondo Fischer from Dresda and
Ferdinand Sorrentino from Naples painted snuff-boxes. Knobs on walking
sticks were mounted in gold by the Frenchman Pietro Chevalier and the
Neapolitan Antonio de Laurentis.
The products manufactured
at Capodimonte in this period included plates, vases, small and large
bowls, tea and coffee cups, large and small jugs, sugar bowls, tea caddies,
teapots, snuff-boxes, and walking stick handles mounted in gold.
In 1759 Philip V of
Spain died and Charles took up the Spanish throne becoming Charles III
King of Spain (1759-1788). Prior to his departure from Naples he ordered
the demolition of the Royal Factory and transported all moulds, models
and artists with him to Spain to found the porcelain factory Buen Retiro
near Madrid, in an attempt to preserve his secret of porcelain manufacture
and to leave almost no trace as to the origin of his discoveries.
Charles' son Ferdinand
(1751-1825) succeeded his father to the Neapolitan throne becoming Ferdinand
IV King of Naples (1759-1816) and later as Ferdinand I King of the Two
Sicilies (1816-1825). Ferdinand inherited his father's passion for porcelain
and, as a relatively young man of twenty, he charged the Brigadier Marquis
Ricci with the task of creating a new factory at the Royal Villa at Portici,
appointing him as director. At the same time Ferdinand also ordered that
all the remaining porcelain, tools and machinery from his father's original
factory be brought to the Royal Palace at Naples where the methods of
Charles' original porcelain production were deduced. Construction of the
new factory commenced in September 1771 and finished in February 1772
whereupon production began.
Sadly, soon after
the completion of this new factory, Ricci died. He was succeeded, as director,
by the Spaniard, Thomas Perez, an official to the First Secretary of State.
The modellers at this time were Francesco Celebrano and Francesco Chiari,
and the painters included Carlo Coccorese who had originally worked in
Charles' factory prior to its destruction and, through a series of misfortunes,
had returned from Spain finding work and recognition finally under Perez.
Perez also increased the staff, employing in particular Saverio Grue,
son of the painter Francesco Antonio Grue. Saverio was reknowned not only
for his painting abilities but also for his porcelain sculpture.
In this period the
shape, style and decoration of the porcelain production was similar to
that of the original Capodimonte factory. The factory output was relatively
small employing few artists and the production was destined either for
the Court or for visiting royalty or nobility.
In 1779 Domenico Venuti
replaced Perez as director of the Royal Factory. Under Venuti's orders
other remains of Charles' original porcelain production which had been
found abandoned at the Royal Palace of Portici, including plaster copies
of Grecian busts found in the Herculaneum excavations, were brought to
the Royal Palace of Naples to be used as models for the sculptors and
painters. Venuti also proposed the creation of a special acacdemy, the
Academy of the Nude (l'Accademia del Nudo), which Ferdinand duly founded
in December 1781.
The aim of this academy
was to return to the study of the antique and pure principles of art which,
at that time, had been considered abandoned in favour of a more fashionable
genre. One of the first artists to give lessons in this academy was Costanzo
Angelini, whose studies and work of the nude occupy pride of place in
Italian art together with those of the sculptor Antonio Canova.
Under Venuti's able
direction the production at the Royal Factory reached its zenith of artistic
splendour becoming famous throughout Europe. Of particular note were the
production of two porcelain cases for two table clocks which played minuets.
These clocks represented two different themes, on one, the four empires
of the world were represented, and on the other, the turn of night to
day was represented. The sculpture and painting of these pieces were executed
under the direction of Venuti and Giacomo Milani respectively. These clocks
were so beautiful that two songs were written after their two creators.
In 1782 Ferdinand
ordered the production of a special dinner service intended as a gift
for his father, Charles III of Spain, and founder of the original Capodimonte
factory. This service was decorated with images of the vases and pictures
found in the Herculaneum excavations. A special ninety four page catalogue
was also produced by Venuti and Vincenzo Flauti.
These gifts, accompanied
by two artists involved in their production, Giacomo Milani and Antonio
Cioffi, were sent to Spain to the Spanish Court. Their reception, however,
was fairly cold. The hospitality and appreciation of the Spanish King
and Court was found wanting, the artists were not even permitted to present
their work to the King. They returned to Naples after a hazardous return
journey, offended and disappointed.
In 1785, however,
Ferdinand ordered the production of another special "Etruscan" dinner
service for George III, King of England. Ferdinand also required the production
of a publication in which Venuti was to describe the decoration of the
service in French. Gaetano Carcani, the director of the Royal Press was
ordered to print one hundred copies of the book on Imperial Paper and
a further six copies on Dutch Paper. The service was finished in April
1785 and the printing in May of the same year.
The book consisted
of 157 prints the first of which was a sepulchre uncovered at Nola. Each
of the others represented individual pieces of the service modelled in
shape and subject on the designs of different painted vases found in the
excavations at Nola, Herculaneum, Pompei and in other parts of the Kingdom
of Naples. At the end of the volume there was a large illustration depicting
Tasconte, King of Etruria, presiding over the gladiatorial games.
The famous modeller
FilippoTagliolini accompanied this service to London and presented it
to George III . In a subsequent letter to Venuti, Tagliolini reported
that the King was overwhelmed with gratitude on receiving such a beautiful
gift. This service was thought to be lost, but was latterly found in one
of the cupboards in Windsor castle where it had been placed for safekeeping
during restoration work.
Other porcelain dinner
services were also produced for the Duchess of Parma, General Acton, a
certain Mr. Batson and others. Famous clients of the Royal Factory included
the English Admiral, Horatio Nelson, who wished to acquire the beautifully
modelled figurines in Bisquit of the King, Queen and all the Royal Family.
It is reported that Nelson, after having asked their price, was informed
that not only these pieces, but any others he desired were to be given
as a gift to Nelson from Ferdinand IV King of Naples. In a letter to Lord
Saint Vincent Nelson described the event concluding "C'est très-beau de
la parte du roi".
In early 1799 both
the French invasion and the Neapolitan revolution took place and Ferdinand
fled to Sicily with the Royal Family in December 1798 leaving the throne
of Naples and the Royal Factory at the mercies of the ensuing disorder.
Domenico Venuti tried to protect the Factory from looting by the Neapolitan
people and thereafter from the control of the French invaders led by the
French General, Jean-Etienne Championnet. Venuti was unsuccessful and
much dilapidation took place involving removal of valuable porcelain by
the French forces by day and the stripping of lead from the Factory rooves
According to Venuti
in a subsequent communication to the King, the most intense damage was
suffered in the first 47 days of the Revolution whereafter, the Jacobite
General, MacDonald, reinstalled order and assigned Venuti with the responsibility
of reforming the Factory workforce. Venuti, however, wished to return
home to his native Livorno and handed in his notice to the French forces.
The French did not accept his resignation and maintained that his presence
at the Factory was necessary.
For the first three
months of the their occupation the French paid nothing towards the upkeep
of the Factory or the salaries of the workers, some of whom were reduced
to begging for money, in spite of being strongly urged to do so by Venuti.
Consequently, one month of the two months wages that Venuti had taken
at the beginning of the Revolution was used to help the widows, the sick
and the more desperate workers and the other month's wages disappeared.
In February 1799 the
Roman Commissioner, Guibert, who was appointed by Championnet to oversee
the running of the Factory, started to pay amounts not exceeding 2000
ducats per month to the employees and craftsmen to cover both their salaries
as well as to purchase the necessary materials for porcelain production.
The Neapolitan Revolution
capitulated on the 19th June 1799 and on the 10th of July Ferdinand returned
to Naples from Palermo. Guibert continued to maintain his role of financial
responsibility in the Factory both during and after Ferdinand's return.
During this time the actual expenses incurred associated with the running
of the Factory exceeded the projected sums paid by Guibert and in the
period from February 1799 to September 1801 the Factory had overspent
by about 12,000 ducats. At this point Ferdinand was obliged to intervene
and formed a committee to manage the affairs of the Royal Factory.
This committeee consisted
of the temporary manager Ugolino Ganucci, Planelli, Domenico Venuti, the
mineralogist Savarese and Gaetano d'Auria who were given the immediate
task of examining all aspects associated with the improvement of the running
of the Royal Factory.
Of particular interest
at this time was the production of a porcelain dèjeuner originally commissioned
by Queen Maria Carolina (the sister of Marie Antoinette) in 1799. This
dèjeuner was intended as a gift for Admiral Nelson and consisted of 12
plates on which his famous sea battles were depicted together with his
portrait and initials. In addition Nelson was to be given a glove-box
made from Vesuvian lava stone decorated in gold and 12 small silver spoons
with handles made from Eastern agate presented in an ornamental mahogany
case. The preparation of materials for these items had originally been
made by the artist Michele Arnaud prior to the Neapolitan revolution and
the same artist was charged with its completion almost a year later.
In July 1801 Gannucci
was succeeded in his position of temporary manager by Felice Nicholas
and from this period onwards the number of employees and artisans in the
Factory was greatly reduced. In 1802 the number of managerial roles in
the Factory as well as the workforce was even further slimmed. At this
time the Director of Painting was Gaetano Milani and the Modelling Director
was Filippo Tagliolini. The rest of the workforce consisted of 12 employees
in the sales warehouse, 2 mould modellers, 7 painters, 2 modellers and
one turner. The Royal Factory continued to produce beautiful porcelain
but albeit a smaller production.
In 1805 Ferdinand
decided to show his gratitude to the Factory workers and decreed that
they should receive six percent of the annual sales apart from their usual
salaries. This money was distributed to the workers at the end of each
year and in various proportions depending on their various roles. Even
those who were employed on a daily basis were included providing they
had not stopped working for one complete year.
However in 1806 the
French occupation of Naples continued led by the invading army of Napoleon's
elder brother, Giuseppe Bonaparte. Ferdinand was again forced to return
to Palermo and Giuseppe Bonaparte was named King of Naples.
At the end of March
1807 the French military occupation wanted to dispose itself of the responsibilty
of the Royal Factory and in May of the same year it was transferred to
Giovanni Poulard-Prad, a representative of an "anonymous" company made
up of Giovanni Plan, Gabriele Gaspard Junoz and Luigi Ippolito Beranger.
The deposit was paid by a certain Carlo Rilliet a merchant and native
A franchise was granted
to Poulard & C. for porcelain production on the provisos that the porcelain
quality and manufacturing process was improved, or at least that the production
was maintained comparable in quality to the original production and also
that the transportation of the moulds and plans was forbidden. In addition
all the drawings, moulds and other tools were handed over to this company
for 3000 ducats and the gardens, presbytery and adjacent buildings of
the Church of Santa Maria della Vita were rented out for porcelain production
for a further annual sum of 50 ducats. Poulard then, at considerable expense,
converted these buildings into an establishment suitable for the production
In 1808 Gioacchino
Murat, the commander of the French occupational forces in Spain, was nominated
King of Naples in place of Giuseppe Bonaparte. Murat won much popularity
from the Neapolitan people at that time since he took back Capri from
the English as well as restoring law and order and promoting many public
works. He was also responsible for abolishing the last surviving structures
of feudalism in Naples.
Murat's reign came
to an end shortly after the Congress of Vienna in 1815 where the return
of the "legitimate" sovereign, Ferdinand IV, was sanctioned. At this point
Murat demanded the return of the whole of Italy to the French (The Proclamation
of Rimini 30th March 1815). On the 2nd of May 1815 Murat's troops were
decimated by the Austrian forces at Tolentino and Murat fled to France
and thereafter to Corsica. Murat was sadly shot during a campaign on the
13th October 1815 in Pizzo where he died.
to the throne of Naples in 1816 as Ferdinand I King of the Two Sicilies
(1816-1825). On his return, the confiscation of this newly constructed
factory from Poulard was proposed. However, in February 1816 Poulard drew
up a contract with the Borbonic government whereby all previous "rights"
were confirmed and that all the buildings of the Church of Santa Maria
della Vita which were occupied for porcelain production were also handed
over to Poulard as his sole property. A further clause stated that in
accepting the above, Poulard had to pay one third of all monies they received
to all the artists workers and employees of the original Royal Factory.
The industry, unfortunately,
declined and in May 1818 Poulard sold half of the factory buildings, moulds,
lathes, tools and models as well as unused pastes and unfinished works
to Claudio Guillard and Giovani Tourné for 6200 ducats. In August 1819
Poulard sold the remaining half of the factory to Francesco Paolo del
Re for 3000 ducats and the rest which remained to del Re in December of
the same year for a final 3700 ducats. This effectively concluded the
life of the Royal Factory which had served to inspire European Porcelain
production for 64 years.
The masterpieces of
the Royal Factory of Capodimonte were astonishing in their demonstration
of Italian skill and craftsmanship as was the flair of the individual
artists who worked there, in paricular the master Tagliolini.
In little more than
half a century the Royal Factory had produced the finest porcelain and
ceramic dinnerware and ornaments creating its most superb, unique and
complete style; the Bisquit which did not redden with age (unlike those
of Saxony and Sèvres) and the miniatures, which were magnificent in their
sculpture and detail and which may be said to be the rarest and most prized
of all European Porcelain.