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The Richard-Ginori porcelain factory and Art Nouveau Style.

Starting at the end of the 19th century and continuing up until the beginning of the First World War, like almost all of the other companies in Europe producing ceramics, the Richard-Ginori factory at Doccia began to work with a completely new approach, the Art Nouveau Style, which represented a profound change from the ceramics that had been produced up until that time.

The delay with which the company, in comparison with the other ceramic factories of the time, adopted this popular new style was due to the fact that the traditional style, Eclectics, in Italy was deeply rooted in the tastes of that period and so the management considered it difficult and, from a marketing point of view, complicated to try to evolve towards new styles.

On closer inspection, however, already before the merger with the Richard Company of Milan, the management of the Ginori family had begun the process of assimilation towards the new style, which was strongly influenced by Japanese art (consider that 1904 was the year of presentation of Puccini’s Madame Butterfly).

In 1896 the merger between the two companies, Richard and Ginori, took place. The entrepreneur who had conceived the merger, Augusto Richard, assigned the artistic direction of the new factory to Luigi Tazzini, called "the Professor", an expert painter from Milan and, in particular, entrusted him with the task of renewing the image of the manufactory from an artistic point of view. Tazzini quickly adjusted production to the new style coming from northern Europe and to the new influence of the Germany and Austrian Secessionists.
Although Richard-Ginori continued to manufacture the classic models of their traditional production, the company adhered fully to the Art Nouveau movement by producing a range of ceramic objects of particularly high artistic quality. The target markets were those of Europe and especially the Anglo-Saxons countries, as well, of course, as the domestic market, even though the high prices did not favor the spread of these products in Italy.
From a business point of view, even if the production of this kind of item was of minor commercial importance (majolica represented about 5.7% and porcelain about 0.7% of total production), it had, however, great potential impact on the public, and guaranteed a great return of image. In any case, in 1896 when Ginori merged with the Richard industrial group, the company had 1500 employees and was producing about ten million pieces of majolica and porcelain tableware a year. This was the direct result of industrialization, while the new Floral Line represented a return to individual craftsmanship, a central element in Art Nouveau.
The new line of Richard-Ginori products was presented at various international exhibitions of that time, and entered into direct competition with other major Italian and European ceramic manufacturers.

All of the typical elements of Art Nouveau imagery began to appear in the Richard-Ginori products. The female figure with long, flowing hair, draped in a gossamer dress was often used as a decoration during this period and the sculpted decorations were adapted each time to the shape of the object to which they were attached; the female figure's hair or dress may flow around the entire vase, or a floral pattern may encompass the edge of a plate.

The artists working at Doccia used all the typical elements of Art Nouveau: the peacock, flowers with long stems, sinuous floral elements. They also used many animal subjects like herons, snakes, and mermaids.
The plant world was also an inexhaustible source of inspiration. The infinite charm of the flower arrays which inspired Tiffany, Gallé, and the brothers Daum, was perceived by several ceramic manufacturers, including Richard-Ginori, who used the compositions of these great artists as models.
While the Ginori Art Nouveau designs represented a very upscale, highly artistic product, its production was limited and therefore commercially insignificant. However, during this same time period there was also a production of more "domestic" items, such as lines of high quality tableware and other objects for household use. While still maintaining a very high artistic quality, the price was reasonable and therefore the popularity of the line was far more widespread.

The Fioristi

To maintain a high level of quality in the Art Nouveau products of Richard-Ginori, and to compete with other European manufacturers, the Artistic Director of the factory, Luigi Tazzini brought in a number of artists of unquestioned ability and talent. These artists, aided by numerous decorators, made up the group which is called the Fioristi, that is, the flower painters.

Each hand-decorated object was signed by the artist on the front. From a preliminary count of the different signatures, there seems to have been over 40 artists working at Doccia. Not surprisingly, those for whom we have some record we know to have been living at Doccia or Sesto Fiorentino or adjacent areas: Calenzano, Colonnata, Querceto.
For the artists, signing their names in that period was almost a game. However, it should be remembered that 1900 was a very formal era compared to ours and that signing one’s own work represented something new and unusual for the time; in any case, it was required by the international markets.

It is worth trying to understand the scenario in which these people moved to better appreciate and understand their art. Luigi Tazzini, the painter from Brera Academy in Milan, had officially assumed the artistic direction of Richard-Ginori in 1899, when he was only 34 years old and was at the height of his physical ability and artistic talent.
The following year he attended the International Exhibition of Paris and was dazzled by the Art Nouveau style and by the influences of the Viennese Secession: he started to work at once to introduce the new style at Richard-Ginori.

His partners in this enterprise were the painters, the artists working in the pittoria, which was the decorating department of the factory. No doubt these artists, most of whom were quite young, were the natural allies of Tazzini for introducing the Art Nouveau style at Richard-Ginori and
the evidence of this alliance is the beauty and artistry of the pieces produced.
A further proof is the fact that working groups were formed spontaneously and this would indicate a particularly good climate of cooperation that was present in the pittoria.
In conclusion, it appears that Luigi Tazzini had in part found and in part created a close-knit group of young artists, enamored of their work, and operating in a very pleasant working atmosphere which however, was totally different from the current mass production, which was taking place next to them in the same factory.

The painters belonged to that category which, more than any other, embodied the essence of the factory. It was not a coincidence that they called themselves Artist Painters (census 1881) and in the municipal documents they were called Artists.
They were, in fact, the proponents of Arts and Crafts as opposed to Mass Production, in conformity with the philosophy and principles of Art Nouveau.

Large rooms were assigned to artist at Colonnata, where the Richard-Ginori factory was located at the time. The rooms were oriented North-South so that a diffused light entered from the windows to the East and West.
In these open spaces artistic collaboration certainly must have prevailed over competition.

Moreover, the Fioristi group was quite large, and it is assumed that the composition of the group was at least on two levels: teachers and students. The latter usually came from the School of Design created by Municipality. Students naturally huddled around the figure of a teacher for the allocation of the tasks and for receiving the artistic support that they needed, given their youth and inexperience.

Finally, it may be useful to make a comparison with the contemporary production of a prominent rival of Richard-Ginori, the Limoges factory in France. We are helped in this task by a good friend living in United States, Susan Hoffman, an expert on Limoges porcelain production at that time.
She observes: "The Ginori I have seen are mainly florals – beautifully painted (they were very fine artists) with wonderful use of color and design. Their theme is usually simpler than those of the Limoges factory artists – Ginori plates seem to focus on and highlight the beauty of a single rose showing the individual petals – very thorough.
Their colors are magnificent.. It’s rare that you see much gold wear on their pieces – I wonder how many firings they did to achieve the gold. It seems to me that the artists at Ginori in this period were much more nouveau in their style than those working at Limoges.”

Finally, it is worth noting that the period we are considering is a great moment for the production of Richard-Ginori. It was a unique period in which art was favored at the expense of mass production and a time when the big factory had become a forge of creativity, a time when artists were really artists and were not asked to repeat motifs and traditional designs, but to unleash their artistic talents on to new paths. Each piece therefore represents a work of art on a porcelain base.

The town of Fiesole and Ginori

The area of the plain near Sesto Fiorentino at the base of the mountain of Morello is called Colonnata.
In the Middle Ages, probably before the year 1000, a group of people coming from Fiesole and led by St Romulus moved to this area. It is said that the Saint personally founded there a church that took his name, San Romolo. Subsequently he became the Patron Saint of Fiesole.
The parish of San Romolo in Colonnata, appears as a parish community for the first time in a sale document in the year 1235.
The Ginori porcelain Manufactory was created in 1737 in the parish community of Colonnata and from this community came the first employees.
In the years which followed, the church of San Romolo was decorated by precious ceramics and in 1783 even the altar was made in porcelain.
The baptismal font was designed and made by Luigi Tazzini the great floral painter and promoter of Art Nouveau at Richard-Ginori.