Giovanni Vezzi: the third porcelain manufacture of Europe in Venice in the Ca’ Rezzonico Museum
The Baroque Ca‘ Rezzonico Palace overlooking the Grand Canal is one of the most beautiful museums of Venice according to my opinion.
The palace was started in the 17th Century for the Venetian family Bon and finished by the architect Massari only in the 18th Century for the new noble family Rezzonico of Lombard origins. In 1936 several pieces of furniture, chandeliers, paintings from different Venetian palaces were relocated here, so that present visitors get an excellent overview of the many ‘facets’ of Venetian art and life in the 18th Century, and therefore the definition of Ca’ Rezzonico as the museum of the 18th Century.
Airy frescos by Giambattista Tiepolo, portraits by Rosalba Carriera, everyday scenes by Pietro Longhi, stunning original Murano glass chandeliers and mirrors, fanciful pieces of varnished furniture and elegant porcelain lead us through the opulent first and the second Piano Nobile from room to room into the atmosphere of the 18th Century, starting from the single-seater gig at the top of the staircase.
Europe in the 18th Century was obsessed by this frivolous and fragile material, porcelain; Augustus II the Strong, King of Poland and Elector of Saxony, wrote about ,maladie de porcelaine,, the porcelain sickness.
Exquisite Chinese porcelain was very highly considered everywhere in Europe in the 18th Century for its whiteness, hardness and multi-coloured ornaments. This was also true in Venice, where over the silk road or the sea road the white gold of middle-ages was transported and was well known and much admired. The Venetian explorer Marco Polo mentioned twice this word in his book, Il Milion (The travels of Marco Polo).
In 1708 Johann Friedrich Böttger, a pharmacist and an alchemist, produced in the Gothic royal castle in Meißen, Albrechtsburg, the first example of hard porcelain, resembling the much-coveted Chinese porcelain. August the Strong believed that Böttger could transform metal into gold, the famous ‘transmutation’, but after years of failed attempts he had to content himself with the second white gold after real gold, porcelain. In vain the formula for making high fired porcelain was kept secret, the fabled ‘Arcanum’ was soon solved and a second manufacture was open in Vienna in 1718 (Du Paquier) and then a third one in Venice in 1720.
Also Venice has an important tradition in porcelain as the pieces displayed here prove. Follow me through the impressive rooms of this palace.
In the Rezzonico palace we can admire some of the few pieces by Giovanni Vezzi displayed in Venice.
Giovanni Vezzi, a jeweller and merchant, had opened together with his father Francesco in the Serenissima the third porcelain enterprise in Europe.
The father Francesco was a jeweller originating from Udine in Friuli. He had visited Vienna and had probably admired there Du Paquiers’ porcelain. He ran in Venice his shop Drago D’Oro (the golden dragon) and by supporting the Venetian economy he was elevated to the noble status.
The first seat of Giovanni’s manufacture was on the Giudecca island, then in Cannaregio near the Church Madonna dell’Orto. Another shop was opened in San Marco, apparently where nowadays we find a famous glass shop.
His mark was Ven:a or Venezia or V:a
In the Ca‘ Rezzonico Museum are displayed rare pieces that together with dozens of pieces come from the extensive Venetian collection of Conte Nani Mocenigo (Count Cicara, nicknamed Count Cup); now displayed here thanks to his widow.
Small, but precious
This applies to the single pieces, but also to the size of the cups as the new drinks ‘coffee, tea and chocolate’ were very, very expensive and thus the small size of the first cups without handles.
A small cup is displayed with thin edges and blue and golden butterflies and flowers.
Other masterpieces by Vezzi are displayed on the second piano nobile in the Cembalo room.
Besides 2 iron-red bell-shaped cups, 2 similar cups with wine leaves and parrots with a golden blue background, marked Venezia in blue; plate with central flower and flowery decorations and insects displayed around marked Ven:a in blue with the same golden blue decorations and cup with the same colours and decorations inside the borders.
3 splendid teapots catch our eye, one hexagonal and 2 rounded ones, one with flowers and long leaves in red, green and blue, cover not original, with the mark Ven:a in iron-red and C engraved and the other one marked Ven:a in iron-red and engraved M.A.
2 jugs decorated with long sinuous leaves and flowers.
Vezzi was forced to close his undertaking in 1727, so 7 years after he had opened it. Apparently 30,000 pieces were ready to be burnt.
Nowadays only 300 pieces survive, the majority are tea services, tea pots, coffee pots and vases. Only very few can be admired in Venice.
Vezzi worked with Christopher Conrad Hunger, who had worked with Böttger and at Du Paquier and provided technical expertise.
So around 1730 porcelain production stopped in Venice.
Only 1757 Friedrich Hewelcke, coming from Udine, reached Venice and was given the permission to produce Saxon porcelain. His porcelain was not white, was uneven and with simple decorations, his mark V or a red V.
His partner was the young Geminiano Cozzi.
With Cozzi Venetian porcelain reached its second peak as we will see in another article.