Assortment of 4 dishes with braided rim
Antonio Ferretti Manufacture
Lodi, circa 1770-1780
Maiolica polychrome decorated “a piccolo fuoco” (third fire).
Measures: 14 x 10 in (35.5 x 25.5 cm);
12.2 x 8.39 in (31 x 21.3 cm);
10.4 x 9.65 in (26.5 x 24.5 cm);
10.8 x 9.61 in (27.5 x 24.4 cm).
Weight: 4.4 lb (1.998 kg)
State of conservation: some chips due to use on the edges and on the parts in relief.
The four different dishes have a foot with a low lip from which extends a wide, flat, slanted rim resembling a basket weave. The small handles are painted green: they resemble wickerwork in the two oval dishes and take the form of a sinuous branch in the round ones.
The third fire decoration is inspired by the naturalistic floral botanical patterns on the ceramics produced by the Hannong family in Strasbourg. Here the pattern is defined by the rapidity and subtlety of the brushstrokes and the result is particularly tasteful, characterized by compositional intelligence and pictorial expertise.
A main corolla, either a wild or garden rose, is set slightly off center in each well. From this extends a thin stem holding a small secondary bud and there are small field florets dotting the composition to lend volume to the delicate bunch of flowers.
On the brim, small polychrome flowers add color to the weave, accompanied by lanceolate leaves of a very intense green.
There exist few and very rare examples for comparison with this morphology: a round plate - entirely consistent with those in question - has been dated to around 1775 (S. Levy, Maioliche settecentesche lombarde e venete, Milano 1962, tav. 200). Two other dishes with a basket rim, but with parallel striped brim decoration, were exhibited in the 1995 exhibition on Lodi ceramics; the attribution to the Lombard town near Milan is therefore almost exclusively derived from the decoration called "alla rosa contornata" or "alla vecchia Lodi" and constitutes one of the most popular decorations during the eighteenth century. (M. L. Gelmini, in Maioliche lodigiane del '700 (cat. mostra Lodi), Milano 1995, pp. 31 p. 162-163 nn. 181-182).
This decorative choice represented a strong point of the Lodi factory, which established itself thanks to the vivid nature of the colors made possible by the introduction of a new technique perfected by Paul Hannong in Strasbourg and which Antonio Ferretti introduced in Italy. This production process, called “piccolo fuoco” (third fire), allowed the use of a greater number of colors than in the past; in particular, the purple of Cassius, a red made from gold chloride, was introduced. Its use allowed for many more tones and shades, from pink to purple.
The Ferretti family had started their Maiolica manufacturing business in Lodi in 1725.
The forefather Simpliciano had started the business by purchasing an ancient furnace in 1725 and, indeed, we have evidence of the full activity of the furnaces from April of the same year (Novasconi-Ferrari-Corvi, 1964, p. 26 n. 4). Simpliciano had started a production of excellence also thanks to the ownership of clay quarries in Stradella, not far from Pavia. The production was so successful that in 1726 a decree of the Turin Chamber came to prohibit the importation of foreign ceramics, especially from Lodi, to protect internal production (G. Lise, La ceramica a Lodi, Lodi 1981, p. 59).
In its initial stages, the manufacture produced maolicas painted with the “a gran fuoco” (double fire) technique, often in turquoise monochrome, with ornamentation derived from compositional modules in vogue in Rouen in France. This was also thanks to the collaboration of painters like Giorgio Giacinto Rossetti, who placed his name on the best specimens next to the initials of the factory.
In 1748 Simpliciano made his will (Gelmini, 1995, p. 30) appointing his son Giuseppe Antonio (known as Antonio) as universal heir. After 1750, when Simpliciano passed away, Antonio was directly involved in the Maiolica factory, increasing its fortunes and achieving a reputation on a European level. Particularly important was the aforementioned introduction in 1760 of the innovative “a piccolo fuoco” (third fire) processing, which, expanding the ornamental repertoire with Saxon-inspired floral themes, could commercially compete with the German porcelains that had one of its most renowned offerings in the naturalistic Deutsche Blumen. Antonio Ferretti understood and promoted this technique and this decoration, proposing it in a fresher and more corrective version, less linked to botanical tables, both with or without contour line, as well as in purple or green monochrome. After efforts to introduce more Industrial Production techniques to the sector succeeded, even the Ferretti manufacture, in the last decade of the eighteenth century, started heading towards decline despite its attempts to adapt production to neoclassical tastes.
In 1796 the Napoleonic battle for the conquest of the Lodi bridge over the Adda definitively compromised the furnaces. Production resumed, albeit in a rather stunted manner, until Antonio's death on 29 December 1810. (M. L. Gelmini, pp. 28-30, 38, 43 sgg., 130-136 (for Simpliciano); pp. 31 sgg., 45-47, 142-192 (for Antonio).
C. Baroni, Storia delle ceramiche nel Lodigiano, in Archivio storico per la città e i comuni del circondario e della diocesi di Lodi, XXXIV (1915), pp. 118, 124, 142; XXXV (1916), pp. 5-8;
C. Baroni, La Maiolica antica di Lodi, in Archivio storico lombardo, LVIII (1931), pp. 453-455;
L. Ciboldi, La Maiolica lodigiana, in Archivio storico lodigiano, LXXX (1953), pp. 25 sgg.;
S. Levy, Maioliche settecentesche lombarde e venete, Milano 1962, pp. 17 sgg.;
A. Novasconi - S. Ferrari - S. Corvi, La ceramica lodigiana, Lodi 1964, ad Indicem; Maioliche di Lodi, Milano e Pavia (catal.), Milano 1964, p. 17;
O. Ferrari - G. Scavizzi, Maioliche italiane del Seicento e del Settecento, Milano 1965, pp. 26 sgg.;
G. C. Sciolla, Lodi. Museo civico, Bologna 1977, pp. 69-85 passim;
G. Lise, La ceramica a Lodi, Lodi 1981;
M. Vitali, in Storia dell'arte ceramica, Bologna 1986, p. 251;
M. A. Zilocchi, in Settecento lombardo, Milano 1991, pp. 492-496;
M. L. Gelmini, in Maioliche lodigiane del '700 (cat. mostra Lodi), Milano 1995;
R. Ausenda (a cura di), Musei e Gallerie di Milano. Museo d’Arti Applicate. Le ceramiche. Tomo secondo, Milano 2000, pp. 213-220;
Felice Ferrari, La ceramica di Lodi, Lodi 2003.