Capodimonte porcelain ewer and basin, made by Giuseppe Gricci

Capodimonte factory, Naples, Italy, around AD 1750

Modelled with shells and marine life

The factory was founded by King Charles III of Naples (1716-88) in the grounds of the Royal Palace of Capodimonte in 1743. Finely textured paste was made from local clays and used for the production of porcelain with a glassy, creamy-white finish. Giuseppe Gricci (died 1770), who had been trained as a sculptor, was the chief modeller, and produced lively figures of Neapolitan peasants and street sellers as well as the more typical commedia dell'arte series, of which the British Museum has two examples. The factory continues to specialize in figures to this day.

The ewer and its basin are painted in naturalistic enamel colours, and traces of gilding remain which must have once covered the interior of the basin. The shells were probably moulded from real shells.

Their history is distinguished: they once belonged to Marguerite Power, Countess of Blessington (1789-1849), hostess, novelist and writer of entertaining memoirs, who was a friend of the poet Lord Byron and lover of the writer Count d'Orsay. They were on display in one of the most sensational exhibitions of decorative arts, held in the South Kensington Museum in London in 1862, and were in the collection of the Earls Spencer from the late nineteenth century until acquired by the British Museum.

Find in the collection online

More information


, Porcellana di Capodimonte: La, exh. cat. (Naples, 1993)

A. Dawson, 'Recent acquisitions of Post-medieval ceramics and glass', Burlington Magazine-6 (May 1988)


Height: 27.400 cm
Height: 27.400 cm

Museum number

M&ME 1986,3-5,1.a, b



Find in the collection online

Search highlights

There are over 4,000 highlight objects to explore