Included in The Metropolitan Museum of Art's comprehensive collections are many smaller ones that illustrate facets of the intriguing history of styles and techniques. It is with a view to making these sometimes subtle qualities more widely known that with this summary handbook of eighteenth-century Italian porcelain we inaugurate a new publishing venture—a series of informative, well-illustrated, and accessible guides.
The earliest European porcelain was made in Florence under the patronage of Francesco I de' Medici, grand duke of Tuscany. It was inspired by the blue-and-white hard-paste porcelains being imported from China, but, unlike them did not include kaolin, the clay that is essential to hard paste, which was not discovered in Europe until the eighteenth century. This porcelain was a unique, isolated phenomenon, that ended with Francesco's death in 1587, and sytematic porcelain manufacture in Italy only began in the following century. Factories operating in Italy in the eighteenth century were highly regional in character. While competition encouraged constant movement of arcanists, modelers, and decorators who carried techniques and styles from country to another, Italian political history argued against stylistic unity. In the mid-eighteenth century Venice was still the center of an independent republic, Tuscany owed allegiance to Austria, and Naples belonged to the Bourbons. However temporary these political arrangements, they invited a certain cultural isolation and affored their own implications in terms of patronage and artistic contacts and influence. [This book was originally published in 1985 and has gone out of print. This edition is a print-on-demand version of the original book.]