by Dr. Lori Verderame
Capodimonte was first produced in the port city of Naples, Italy in 1743. The royal Naples factory located in Capodimonte–as translated “top of the hill”–produced ceramics that were highly decorative, sculptural, hand crafted with many details, and of superior quality. Like Meissen ceramic pieces, Capodimonte pieces are very well made and expertly painted and detailed.
Capodimonte’s history relates to the royal families of Europe. The connection between the King of Naples and the Meissen factory occurred when he married the granddaughter of the Meissen factory founder. Also the King of Naples inherited the crown of Spain so at one point the Capodimonte factory was relocated to Madrid, Spain by the king. These relationships help to explain the similarities in porcelain production between these countries and firms.
Back in Naples, the king’s son established the Capodimonte ceramics factory and many other ceramic manufacturing firms moved their businesses and established factories in Naples marking their wares Capodimonte. This was similar to the pottery center of Staffordshire, England where the making of Staffordshire wares was done by many outfits. Capodimonte is a term that recognizes many pottery manufacturers making the highly recognizable, overtly decorative porcelain vases, figurines, gilt plates, urns and other ceramic objects.
The famous Capodimonte mark referred to royalty via the crown mark and the prominent letter “N” found on the underside of pieces produced by the royal Naples factory. The crown indicated the link to royalty and the “N” stands for Naples. The famous Capodimonte mark was not used solely by the royal factory but by many different ceramic studios in the area. By the end of the 1700s, Capodimonte was produced by many studios, the most famous of which was arguably the Ginori brand.
What to Look For
The most common elements found on a piece of Capodimonte is the heavily decorated and carefully sculpted figures, heavy painting, and gilt. Figures like putti, cherubs, angels, animals, gods, goddesses, and flowers are sculpted individually and then applied or attached to the main ceramic form. This process is known as applied ornament. The ornamental sculpture is hand made in great detail. The overall result is an extremely decorative, dramatic sculptural work of ceramic art.
Themes from classical antiquity, the Bible, and nature are very commonly found on Capodimonte pieces. Collectors look for excellent condition of even the most fragile aspects of the piece like the sculpture’s elongated fingers, easily overlooked insects, delicately pointed shoes. etc.
Values for Capodimonte pieces range from a few hundred dollars for a small piece with only a few ornamental sculptural additions to several tens of thousands of dollars for a large scale piece with many highly decorated intricate sculptural ornaments found overall.
Get an online appraisal of your Capodimonte ceramic from Dr. Lori.