19 March – 12 July 2016
Venice, Ca’ Rezzonico, Museo del Settecento veneziano
Exibition extended until 26 September 2016
Porcelain is perhaps the material that best embodies the spirit and aesthetic of the eighteenth century: glossy and light, it naturally lends itself to the creation of objects characterised by elegant, flowing lines.
For long kept a secret by Chinese manufacturers, it was re-created in Europe in the second decade of the eighteenth century at the Saxon court of Augustus the Strong and from there gradually spread across the continent, despite desperate attempts to hide the formula.
During the eighteenth century the Venetian Republic was the only state to have no less than four porcelain factories, all of them opened by private initiative. One of these was that of Geminiano Cozzi (1728 – 1798), born in Modena but Venetian by choice. It is to his extraordinary activity as an entrepreneur ante litteram that the Fondazione Musei Civici di Venezia is now dedicating the first ever retrospective, 250 years after the privilege granted to him by the Republic in 1765 (and which marks the real birth of the Cozzi manufacture).
It is no coincidence that the exhibition should be presented in the pòrtego on the first floor of Ca’ Rezzonico, the Museo del Settecento veneziano, a venue that in terms of its form and history is the best-suited to celebrating one of the most fascinating aspects of eighteenth-century art.
Curated by Marcella Ansaldi and Alberto Craievich, the exhibition features over six hundred pieces from Italian and foreign museums, including the few items to have a firm date and the many still in private collections and hitherto difficult of access to the public and to scholars, a circumstance that has not helped the fortune critique of Cozzi: only today is his work as artist and manufacture being being its due recognition within the European scene.
Unfolding in a development that is both chronological and thematic, the exhibition shows the evolution of Cozzi’s manufacture and of the types of decoration and various items, highlighting on the one hand one of the most fascinating art-historical events of the eighteenth century, and on the other by presenting an overview of a manufacturing activity of the period that includes items of surprising modernity.
The development of the art of porcelain in the eighteenth century in the Venetian Republic was undertaken by figures who were controversial, stubborn and fascinating.
One of these was the Giovanni Vezzi, goldsmith and merchant, who in 1720 started his own production in Venice; another was Nathaniel Friederich Hewelcke, a Saxon merchant who emigrated in 1757 from Meissen because of the closure of the factory during the Seven Years War; he requested and obtained a twenty-year privilege to manufacture “Saxon porcelain of any and all types” in Venice.
And aside from the aforementioned Geminiano Cozzi, we might also mention Giovanni Battista Antonibon, who in 1762 started production in Nove (VI) thirty years after obtaining the privilege from the Serenissima’ “Savi della Mercanzia” for the production of high-quality majolica quality for twenty years without having to pay taxes (1732).
Their destiny, however, despite the qualitatively extraordinary work, was not so lucky: after a few years, Vezzi and Hewelcke were obliged to abandon their businesses because of debts, and only Antonibon in Nove and Cozzi in Venice were able to establish long-lasting businesses, despite encountering difficulties on the way.
The exhibition can be visited during normal museum hours and with the same ticket, and is accompanied by an illustrated catalogue (Antiga Edizioni, Crocetta del Montello, Treviso, 2016) which benefits from an international scientific committee and the collaboration of leading experts in the field.
Curated by Marcella Ansaldi and Alberto Craievich
With the contribution of: