National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of Flask Medici Porcelain Factory (artist)
Italian, 1574 - 1620
Flask, c. 1575/1587, or slightly later
imitation porcelain (a version of soft-paste porcelain)
overall (height to rim): 12.7 cm (5 in.)
Widener Collection
On View
From the Tour: Italian Cabinet Galleries
Object 1 of 6


Casamorata collection, Le Macine, Florence.[1] (Giuseppe Pacini, Florence).[2] (Stanislas Baron, Paris), by 1882.[3] Ambroise Milet [1829-1916], Sevres, by 1893.[4] Alfred André [1839-1919], Paris; his son, Léon Alexandre André [1873-1954], Paris;[5] purchased 1905 by J. Pierpont Morgan [1837-1913], London and New York;[6] his estate; (Duveen Brothers, Inc., London, New York, and Paris); purchased 16 October 1917 by Joseph E. Widener, Elkins Park, Pennsylvania;[7] inheritance from Estate of Peter A.B. Widener by gift through power of appointment of Joseph E. Widener, after purchase by funds of the Estate; gift 1942 to NGA.

[1] The provenance given here is an updated version of the one published in the 1993 NGA systematic catalogue, which originally listed the first owner as "Casa Murata," Florence, based on Jean Charles Davillier, Les origines de la porcelaine en Europe, Paris and London, 1882: 116-117, no. 32, and noted: "Despite the generous efforts of Professor Marco Spallanzani in Florence libraries, no information on the 'Casa Murata' has been traced." However, Alessandro Alinari, La Porcellana dei Medici: Bibliografia ragionata e catalogo essenziale, Ferrara, 2009: 76, no. 27, notes that Davillier's "Casa Murata" was probably the Casamorata family, whose villa in Florence, owned by the Medici family in the 16th century, is located in the street which still bears the family's name. See also Alinari's letter of 1 April 1994 to Timothy Wilson, copy in NGA curatorial files.

[2] The dealer who Davillier identifies only as "Pacini" was Giuseppe Pacini, who was active in the late 19th century dealing primarily in antiquities.

[3] Davilier 1882: 116-117, no. 32.

[4] Georges Vogt, La Porcelaine, Paris, 1893: 83 fig. 30, identifies the NGA flask as with the "Collection Milet." Milet was a potter and eventually director of the Sevres Porcelain Manufactory, and was also a friend and collaborator of Davillier. He had a collection of porcelain and other works of art.

[5] Alfred André was a goldsmith, enamelist, and restorer of Medieval and Renaissance objets d'art, who studied and reactivated old enameling methods. He had workshops for various decorative arts techniques in a wing of his Paris home, working with other goldsmiths, hardstone carvers and ceramists. André transferred half of the business to his son Léon in 1905, after the latter's marriage. This is likely how Léon acquired the flask, and sold it to Morgan the same year. Léon André took complete control of the shop in 1907.

[6] Linda Horvitz Roth provided the details of the 1905 sale invoice to Pierpont Morgan, which is in the archives of The Morgan Library and Museum, New York.

[7] A statement of numerous sales on various dates to Joseph Widener, dated 23 November 1917, is in the Duveen Brothers Records, accession number 960015, Research Library, Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles: box 523, folder 6, reel 378; the flask is described as "A Biberon of Medici Porcelain." Edith Standen, in Widener collection records (copies in NGA curatorial files), gives the November date of the statement as the purchase date for the flask. A note in NGA curatorial files states that the flask was found unrecognized among Pierpont Morgan's blue and white Chinese porcelain at Duveen's by Joseph Widener and acquired at low cost. Edith Standen, who was curator at Lynnewood Hall before the Widener collection was given to the National Gallery and has kindly responded to inquiries about the history of the collection, was unable to confirm this story. It must be regarded as improbable that Duveen's would have failed to recognize a marked piece of Medici porcelain, but it is true that Widener paid a surprisingly low price for the flask.

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