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Medici Porcelain Factory
c. 1575/1587, or slightly later imitation porcelain (a version of soft-paste porcelain)
height to rim: 12.7 cm
National Gallery of Art, Washington
This flask represents a confluence of Chinese and Islamic influence in the West. It is an example of the most successful European imitation of Chinese porcelain made during the Renaissance. Although the manufacture of true porcelain remained a Chinese secret, potters employed by the Medici grand dukes in Florence produced a soft-paste imitation after years of experimentation. A mysterious "Levantine," probably someone from the Islamic world, guided them to success. The shapes and decoration of these Medici "porcelains," made from 1575 to about 1620, are emphatically exotic. Plant motifs on Iznik ceramics produced in Ottoman Turkey, based in turn on Chinese examples, inspired the ornament on this flask, perhaps intended for serving oil.