ZACCAGNINI CHINESE STYLE CACHEPOT IN MING BLUE
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A chinoiserie style, Ming blue cachepot, with deep, espresso brown and gold accents made by the Società Anonima Ceramiche Zaccagnini (aka ZACCAGNINI) in Florence, Italy. The vessel is elevated on four cabriole legs and adorned with floral decorations in high relief. The top is finished with two convenient handles. It would look great with an ivy inside—or used as a candy dish.
ZACCAGNINI was originally founded in Florence in 1905 as Ugo Zaccagnini & Figli (...& Children). Its namesake and founder, Ugo Zaccagnini (1868-1937), was born in Pistoia in Tuscany. He had studied at the Scuola di Disegno Industriale in Sesto Fiorentino and then worked as a plaster modeler for the Richard-Ginori Ceramic Company in Sesto before briefly opening a studio there. That studio closed in 1896 when Zaccagnini entered into partnership with six of the most talented artisans and craftsmen in Florence of the time: Egisto Fantechi, Luigi Ceccherini, Augusto Fantini, Francesco Grassi, Paolo Banchelli, and Giuseppe Conti. The enterprise was dubbed La Societa Industriale per Fabbricazione della Maioliche Artistiche (the Society for Industrial Fabrication of Majolica Art) and known by the acronym SIFMA. Zaccagnini served as the group’s master sculptor and model maker. SIMFA’s production was confined to the recreation of traditional majolica in the Renaissance style of the 15th and 16th centuries, for which Italy was then famous. Zaccagnini, however, grew increasingly enamored of the current Art Nouveau movement, seeing in it unprecedented design possibilities. This artistic difference eventually led to SIFMA’s dissolution. In 1905 Zaccagnini left to open a factory in Florence with the help of sons Pietro, Urbano, and Prisco and daughters Adele and Enrichetta.
ZACCAGNINI & Figli produced all the standard offerings of a traditional Italian pottery, but it was Ugo’s new and surprising creations that caught the world’s attention. He would eventually become famous for both his Art Nouveau and Art Deco figures. The latter, in particular, are highly prized today. In 1912 the company relocated to Florence’s Piazza Pier Vettori, where it boosted output. ZACCAGNINI participated in the Florence Crafts Exhibits and the Milan Triennale and Trade Fair. The factory expanded again in 1928, taking over the industrial complex of a former fireworks factory on Via Monte Oliveto. The campus was set up like a village for its craftsmen, with individual houses serving as workshops.
Ugo passed away in 1937 at the age of 69. ZACCAGNINI’s overall management became the responsibility of Urbano Zaccagnini (1901-1964), his second eldest son, and the company name was changed to Società Anonima Ceramiche Zaccagnini. A new logo was created—a capital “Z” with a squiggly line through it—meant to represent the outline of Monte Oliveto. Urbano set about to change the firm’s direction, and with the help of industrialist Aristide Loria, he modernized production technology and enlarged capacity. ZACCAGNINI began to collaborate with a roster of new designers: Mario Bandini, Ottorino Palloni, Maurizio Tempestini, Gino Pozzi, renowned ceramist Leopold Anzengruber, majolica painter U. Ciardella, sculptor L. Contini, and Fosco Martini.
The factory’s production focused almost exclusively on decorative wares at this time. Very popular lines of animal and female figurines in the Art Deco style were developed, and the company began to export its products, with North America as a primary target. Ties with US importers were cultivated, Urbano making numerous personal trips to meet with American clients face to face. ZACCAGNINI figurines began appearing in stores such as Tiffany’s. In 1938 Zaccagnini obtained a license from Walt Disney Productions to recreate, in clay, its famous animated characters. The ubiquity of the ZACCAGNINI name in the US was thus ensured. Mario Bandini had quickly modeled Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, produced for sale at the Italian national preview of the feature at the Cinema Teatro Verdi (owned by former SIFMA partner Egisto Fantechi). Though expensive, all available pieces sold out immediately. All were personally signed by Zaccagnini and marked “W1.”
ZACCAGNINI would eventually produce more than 150 Disney figurines—the likes of Donald Duck, Pluto, Pinocchio, Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, and Dumbo—all in a special crystalline glaze secretly made in its factory. The firm also created Disney salt-and-pepper shakers, children’s crockery, and other assorted Disneyana Some figurines today command prices in the thousands of dollars. Inactive during WWII, ZACCAGNINI reopened in 1945. In 1947 it was commissioned to manufacture reproductions of ancient ceramics for New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. ZACCAGNINI reached peak production in the late ’40s and ’50s, during which time many Modernist-inspired works were produced, as well as an abstract line called Svedese (Swedish). In 1950 several ZACCAGNINI pieces were exhibited in the Italian Crafts Exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum. US critics noted the similarity of the work to the ‘Hollywood Regency’ style, then en vogue. It combined classical and modernist traits with more opulent, decorative flourishes. ZACCAGNINI products were now exported all over the world and fast becoming collectible.
Pietro, Urbano’s older brother, died in 1954. In 1958, after twenty years of successful leadership, Urbano left the company to open a private studio, Urbano Zaccagnini Ceramiche Artistiche. He passed away in 1964, as did his younger brother Prisco the following year. This left ZACCAGNINI in the hands of sisters Adele and Enrichetta and Ugo Zaccagnini’s grandchildren. It continued to operate, but much of its former luster was gone. In the 1980s, the firm turned exclusively to the production of ceramic bases for high-end lamp manufacturers. Many were created using Art Nouveau and Deco molds from the ‘30s and ‘40s and often bore the Zaccagnini signature. ZACCAGNINI closed its doors in 2000, but many family members have since opened individual studios of their own, in and around Florence.
Designer – URBANO ZACCAGNINI
Design Period/Year – 1950s
Maker – ZACCAGNINI
Production Period/Year – 1950s
Origin – ITALY
Styles/Movements – CHINOISERIE; MODERN
Materials – CERAMICS
Colors – TURQUOISE, COFFEE, GOLD
Condition – Very good vintage condition with only minor blemishes consistent with age and use.
Dimensions – 6 ¼" W × 5 ¾" D × 9 ¼" H