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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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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
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.
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.
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
of the plain near Sesto Fiorentino at the base of the mountain of Morello
is called Colonnata.