Perhaps more than any other material, porcelain embodies the spirit and aesthetic of the eighteenth century. Glossy and light, it lends itself naturally to the creation of objects with elegant, flowing lines. A long-held secret of Chinese manufacturers, it was recreated in Europe in the second decade of the eighteenth century at the Saxon court of Augustus the Strong, and from there gradually spread across Europe, despite the most strenuous efforts to keep the formula hidden.
During the eighteenth century, the Venetian Republic was the only state to have as many as four porcelain factories. Even more significantly, none of them were founded as public enterprises but all as a result of private initiative.
Giovanni Vezzi, Nathaniel Friederich Hewelcke, Pasquale Antonibon and Geminiano Cozzi are controversial and fascinating personalities, hardheaded and obstinate in their desire to achieve their goals against all odds and, in some cases, even against common sense. In fact, although all their achievements were extraordinary in terms of quality, they were not equally fortunate financially. After a few years in business, both Vezzi and Hewelcke were forced to close, strangled by debt. Only Antonibon in Nove and Cozzi in Venice were able to continue long term.
Of these four ‘captains of industry’ ante litteram, it was Geminiano Cozzi (1728-1798), born in Modena but Venetian by choice, who enjoyed the most success. Now, 250 years after the privilege he was granted by the Venetian Republic in 1765, the date which marks the real birth of the Cozzi porcelain industry, this extraordinary entrepreneurial figure is the subject of an exhibition that highlights the factory’s long years of activity and recognises its rightful place in the European scene.
This retrospective exhibition at Ca’ Rezzonico is the first entirely devoted to Cozzi’s production. On show to the public are over six hundred pieces gathered from Italian and foreign museums. The collection includes the few examples of certain date, together with many that have been kept in private collections until now, making access difficult for the public and scholars alike, which certainly has not helped the Cozzi fortunes. To mark the occasion, an illustrated catalogue accompanies the exhibition, prepared with the assistance of an international consultative committee and the cooperation of leading experts in the field.
The exhibition’s chronological and thematic layout illustrates the evolution of the manufacturing process, styles of decoration and the diversity of the pieces made. The exhibition as a whole has been designed to shed light on one of the most fascinating historical and artistic episodes of the eighteenth century, and to provide an overview of porcelain production from the period, illustrated by examples of surprising modernity.