Budding interest in porcelain flowers

THE CURIOUS COLLECTOR

April 04, 1993|By Lita Solis-Cohen and Sally Solis-Cohen | Lita Solis-Cohen and Sally Solis-Cohen,Contributing Writers

Q: While cleaning out my parents' house, I discovered a pair of porcelain tulips in floral decorated pots marked with a blue crown above the letter "N." An accompanying note said they were made by the Capodimonte factory in Naples in the mid-18th century.

A: There's a widespread misconception that the porcelain factory King Charles III of Naples operated at his Capodimonte Palace from 1743 to about 1759 used the "crowned N" mark, according to Letitia Roberts, ceramics expert at Sotheby's auction house in New York.

The short-lived Capodimonte factory generally used as its mark the Bourbon king's fleur-de-lis emblem. Capodimonte wares also are distinguished by creamy-colored soft-paste porcelain bodies (lacking strength-providing kaolin), silky-smooth glaze and florid decoration.

When Charles III became king of Spain in 1759, he closed his Naples factory and moved its molds and workers to his new "Buen Retiro" factory, named after his palace near Madrid. Buen Retiro closed around 1808.

In 1771, King Ferdinand IV of Naples opened a new factory at Capodimonte's old site, producing wares known as "Naples porcelain," which were the first marked with a crowned N. The Naples factory closed in the early 19th century, and sold its molds to the Ginori family's Doccia factory near Florence, which continued to use the crowned N mark into this century. Since porcelain marks weren't regulated until 1891, the crowned N mark also was used by many small potteries throughout the late 18th to early 20th centuries.

Your hard-paste porcelain tulips in pots bear no resemblance to 18th-century Capodimonte, and likely are late 19th-century German decorations. In good condition, the pair might fetch $400 to $600 at auction.

Q: What's my silver coffeepot worth? I've always listed it separately on my insurance policy, but now feel I should be increasing its value. In 1933 a local jeweler identified its "INR" mark as that of silver smiths J. and N. Richardson.

A: Silver made by the Richardson family of Philadelphia is among the most desirable of all early-American silver. The brothers Joseph Jr. (1752-1831) and Nathaniel (1754-1827) Richardson worked together from 1777 to 1790 and used the "INR" mark, with a pellet between the "I" and "N" (J's were written as I's back then).

Your double-bellied silver coffee pot with Rococo embellishments resembles a circa 1780 example by the Richardson brothers in the Garvan Collection, and could be worth $20,000 to $40,000, according to dealer Jonathan Trace, P.O. Box 315, Putnam Valley, N.Y. 10579-2702; (914) 528-7963.

' Solis-Cohen Enterprises

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