Capodimonte Porcelain

By Karen Parr-Moody


Capodimonte – also spelled Capo-di-Monte or Capo di Monte – is an Italian phrase meaning “Top of the Hill.” It is used to describe a type of porcelain which made its debut due to a jealous notion of Charles III of Naples (1716-1788). He wanted to create a porcelain that would rival that of the first European hard paste porcelain factory, which was founded in Meissen, Germany in 1710. (It so happened that Frederick Augustus II of Saxony, the grandfather of Charles’ wife, Maria Amelia of Saxony, founded the Meissen factory.)


The soft-paste wares were first produced by a factory established in 1743 at the Palazzo of Capodimonte in Naples, Italy; the factory was on a hill named Capodimonte near Charles III’ royal palace. This location was in operation until 1759. Early on, the Capodimonte porcelain of Naples became known for hand-made and hand-applied roses and rosebuds.


The factory moved to Buen Retiro, near Madrid, when Charles became king of Spain; there it was in operation from 1771 to 1821. During the French Revolution, the factory was looted and, despite many attempts to revive it in the years to follow, it never recovered. Today this type of porcelain is produced by a number of manufacturers in Italy who describe it as Capodimonte style porcelain, as its trademark is not protected.


The GasLamp Too Showcase T-114 is currently featuring a fabulous collection of Capodimonte wares. Seen in the photo, upper right, is a nicely scaled Capodimonte bowl with handles ($58). The porcelain colors of Capodimonte tend to be unusually vibrant and bold, as seen here. Another trademark feature is the use of hand-painted figures that are raised away from the main body of the porcelain; the figures on this charming bowl are pretty ladies gallivanting among the flowers.


Recurring themes in Capodimonte style porcelain are those taken from nature. Works may also be adorned with raised putti, nudes, animals, flowers, vegetation and Roman goddesses and gods.


Signed “Capodimonte – Italy,” the item in the photo, left, is a classic Italian porcelain covered dresser box ($78). It is decorated with a common theme of Capodimonte works: that of frolicking, hand-painted putti.


Capodimonte pieces of the highest quality contain many hand-painted details, as seen in the urn in the photo, right (it is one of a pair of Capodimonte urns with lids; $695 for both). Each urn is graced beautiful gilt work and features romantic figures inspired by ancient Rome.


Themes of nature and romance abound in this pair of charming Capodimonte decorative dishes, photo below left, that feature relief cupid figures, complete with bows and arrows ($44).


By the 1920s, it became very popular to convert Capodimonte porcelain vases into lamps by adding bases and other necessary accessories. These are fun to discover – and often can be at GasLamp and GasLamp Too – because in addition to being lovely, they are also possess practical applications. Many will include reticulated openwork, which was common Capodimonte porcelain of the ’40s or the ’50s.


The porcelain of Meissen and Sevres have their own style, which tends to refined sophistication. Capodimonte porcelain is distinct from the others in several ways, but mainly for the whimsy of its hand-painted character. If you want to collect unique porcelain pieces that hint at the playfulness of life, then Capodimonte porcelain is your genre.


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