Della Robbia (Italian Earthenware) Pottery Restored!

Monday, May 16, 2011


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This is one of my favorite antiques I have collected over the years that I am
putting up for sale.

Something about this pottery made me pick this one my all time favorites.
At first glance, the pottery appears to be somewhat simple, mundane and
in away, it even appears to be cheap.

But for some reason, this pottery had an unique appeal, at least to me for sure.
The calm, innocent and almost bumpkin like appearance was more than
enough for me to fall in love and admire this unique pottery.

I know this is not a fancy european pottery with all the glitters and gold trims
surrounding the pottery. I guess that is precisely what made me attracted
to this pottery. The innocent and humble look!

After numerous hours on the internet trying to find more information, value or
anything related to that nature was not successful. However, below is what I have
find out as of today. See below content in blue text.

Problem I had with this pottery is that although how much I enjoyed
this pottery, I felt kind sorry to look at it with few cracks and chipped paints,
showing age. Remember the potter had date underglazed 1772.
It is almost 240 years old!

So I have decided to call up my favorite antique restorer, Elza.
Elza's knowledge and artistic skills in restoring antiques are matched with no one.
It took almost two month for her to finish the job.
She went through a pain staking task of restoring nail size cracks and chips,
matching the exact colors and so forth.
At first, I had some doubts whether restoring this item was a good idea.
What if I loose the value?
What if the final product does not come out the way it should?

Well folks, the hestitation I had in restoring this pottery turned out to be a waste of
time. And here is the final work. Judge it for yourself.
It could very well be subjective, but to my eyes, it is fantastic!

Enjoy, I know I will for a long time.


Dimension: H 7.5: x W 10.5"

For further interests or questions, please contact me directly.
If you know something about this pottery and would like to share
your thoughts or expertise, you are welcome to contact me as well.

A brief History on Della Robbia:
Excerps from related sites.

A Della Robbia Pottery Cup and Saucer, by C. A. Walker, painted with green buds and tendrils against a deep blue ground, signed 'D. R. 1898 C. A. W.'; 

The Della Robbia Pottery in Birkenhead was started by Harold Stewart Rathbone  (1858-1929) and Conrad Gustave d'Huc Dressler (1856-1940).
Harold Rathbone, the son of a wealth local businessman Philip Rathbone, had been a pupil of the Pre-Raphaelite artist Ford Madox Brown and was also one of the founders of the Arts and Crafts Movement in England. Rathbone was hard to please and is described as being an ‘eccentric and erratic’ boss.
Conrad Dressler was a sculptor and potter and he also invented the ‘continuous firing tunnel kiln’ which revolutionised kiln firing processes. He was mainly responsible for decorative architectural panels, many of which can still be seen in Birkenhead and Liverpool today, as well as in the local museums. Dressler left the pottery in 1897 to establish his own pottery, the Medmenham Pottery in Buckinghamshire.
The Birkenhead Della Robbia potters were influenced by the work of a Florentine family of potters led by Luca Della Robbia (1400–1482), hence the name ‘Della Robbia’ (of Robbia).  Renaissance Italian potters had been influenced by the colourful decorated ware from Majorca called ‘Majolica’. The work of Luca Della Robbia was compared with the artistic genius of Donatello, Ghibert and Brunellesci. As well as terracotta ware, Luca Della Robbia produced sculptures in bronze and marble. He was commissioned in 1421 to design the choir gallery of the cathedral in Florence. He was also known for his ceramic panels in relief depicting white figurines on a blue background.  Luca Della Robbia employed and trained his nephew Andrea Della Robbia (1435–1525) and Andrea’s sons, all of whom were distinguished and successful craftsmen. 
Number 3, Price Street, Birkenhead  (just off Hamilton Square) would seem today a most unlikely address for a creative enterprise but at the end of the 19th century Birkenhead was enjoying increased prosperity due to the expansion of community industries on the Wirral.  Della Robbia was established as a true Arts & Crafts industry, as advocated by William Morris, the artist and designer associated with the Arts and Crafts movement in England at that time.
Numerous potters and painters were associated with the firm: the Italian sculptor Giovanni Carlo Manzoni (1855 - 1910)  became the chief artistic director, the poet and sculptor Ellen Rope and  Miss Cassandia Annie Walker (one of the most talented decorators associated with the firm) both worked there. In 1900 Marianne de Caluwé joined the pottery, injecting finance as well as bringing a new direction with her strong Art Nouveau influence. Giovanni Carlo Valentino Manzoni (1855 –1910) joined the pottery in 1894 but he was soon to leave to establish his own pottery, the Minerva Art Ware Manufacturers in Hanley. However he returned to the pottery in June 1898, staying until its closure in 1906.
The Della Robbia hallmark, a ship device, was handwritten on the base of pieces. Usually the initials of the designer and decorator would be shown and sometimes the date.
Example initials include:
  • 'C' for Charles Collis
  • 'C.A.W.' for Cassandia Annie Walker
  • 'C.M.' for Carlo Manzoni
  • 'L.W.' for Liza Wilkins
  • 'R.B' for Ruth Bare

Amongst those on the governing council were the Pre-Raphaelite painters Holman Hunt and George Fredrick Watts. Other supporters of the initiative included William Holman Hunt, Lawrence Alma-Tadema, Walter Crane, William Morris and Lord Leighton. 
Tile by Giovanni Manzoni 1895
The pottery used local labour and raw materials such as local red clay from Moreton, Wirral. Rathbone used coloured lead glazes rather than the tin-glazed earthenware of earlier Italian ware. It was recognisable by its lustrous blue-green, yellow and brown colouring. The patterns used were of interweaving plants typical of Art Nouveau, with heraldic and Islamic motifs. Another feature was its "scraffito" decoration achieved by a technique of carving (or scratching) decoration into the wet clay before firing.
The Della Robbia pottery ware was widely sold by Liberty and Co. in London, as well as in their own retail outlet in Liverpool. In addition to tableware, the studio produced work for ecclesiastical use such as plaques, panels and decorated borders.
The costs of producing the Della Robbia designs eventually became greater than the prices that could be charged and the studio was unable to remain a commercial success.  Rathbone’s insistence on hand-crafting designs remained his priority and he spent less time on commercial considerations. His eccentric temperament cost him the services of Conrad Dressler and eventually the business. The pottery opened new exhibition venues in Scotland and for a while, around 1904, there was a renewed interest in its wares. Unfortunately this was not enough to save the firm financially and so the pottery closed in 1906.
Many of the Italian Robbia pieces are still in their original settings in Florence, Arezzo, Siena, and other Italian cities - the finest collections are in Florence - in the cathedral, the Bargello, and the Italian Academy. English examples can be found in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and there is a large collection in the Williamson Art Gallery in Birkenhead. A plaque in the Memorial Church in Manor Road, Wallasey, was designed by Harold Rathbone. Della Robbia pottery is today extremely collectable and would fetch between one and two thousand pounds per piece at auction. 
Andrea Della Robbia

Benedetto Buglioni da Benedetto da Maiano
Madonna col Bambino, 1490/1500, particolare
Anghiari, Museo di Palazzo Taglieschi; già Firenze, Santa Felicita
The Della Robbia family: three generations of artists

The intense artistic activity of the Della Robbia family lasted for a remarkably long time, from the early decades of the 15th century to well after the second half of the 16th century: more than one hundred years which undoubtedly and undeniably influenced all the modern culture of the Western world.
Luca Della Robbia was the founder of the Della Robbia family, praised by Leon Battista Alberti as being one of the fathers of the Renaissance, a cultured artist, interested in new artistic forms who succeeded in ‘inventing’ a brand new technique and thus producing “glazed terracotta sculptures and paintings”. He was, in fact, the sole artist who managed to raise the art of ceramics from being considered one of the ‘minor’ arts to being an artistic expression on the same level as that of the very best paintings and sculptures. Thanks to his nephew, Andrea, this glazed terracotta art spread all over the area, becoming more and more appreciated with an increasing number of buyers; their specialized workshop, situated in Via Guelfa in Florence, became the nucleus of its power and influence in Tuscany. Andrea’s son, Giovanni, continued to work successfully in this field from his workshop while his brothers continued creating high quality artistic objects using their great-uncle’s technique. Luca, Andrea, Giovanni and then Francesco, Marco, Girolamo and Luca the Younger: three generations of a family of artists who were an intrinsic part of the history of a century of Tuscan and Italian art.
 Biography of the Della Robbia Family

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