The ancient and well-known Faience tradition, which was one of the best in Europe, continued to develop during the twentieth century largely through the production of “minor objects”.
Vast ranges of objects were mainly produced to trade by small and large manufacturers and by unknown craftsmen and masters alike. The design was executed for commercial purposes combining modern artistic creativity whilst still upholding traditional methods.
Some of the range included ashtrays, vases, sport trophies and commemorative plates. However, the production of bottles became of prime importance and were moulded in various shapes including little flasks, amphoras, bowls and jugs.
Besides having a decorative function, Faience bottles were generally used as precious vessels for beverages and liqueurs. They were commissioned by small manufacturers and the biggest industries of the sector – such as Luxardo based in Zara, Pedroni in Milan, Strega in Benevento and Buton in Bologna_ who wanted to spread and make their production more valuable using the famous Faience ceramic. This artistic and commercial combination was extremely successful and Faience furnaces saw an unprecedented production.
To meet the continuous demand by manufacturers, hundreds of models were created using a variety of decorative solutions combining style and innovation. For this reason during the 20th century (between the two world wars) no other handcraft item could boast such variety of shapes and decorative motives ranging from historical tradition to the most daring experimentation. Therefore the ceramic bottle is a precious example of the grat achievements in the history of Faience ceramics and consequently of the development of this form of art in Italy.
The Matassoni Collection is of enormous historical importance, not only for its high artistic level but because it fully sums up a period. Thanks to a long and passionate research the collection consists of 600 items and most of them are extremely rare and precious, at times unique such as the many prototypes. Paying particular attention to the philological aspect, this collection includes pieces dating back to the last decades of the 19th century leadind up to the most recent decades of the 20th century thus representing all manufacturers and artist working in Faenza during that long time span.
The importance of this collection is confirmed by examples such as the beautiful flasks painted with pastoral scenes by Tommaso Dal Pozzo around 1880, the works made by the Fabbriche Riunite in the early 20th century, the refined models by Achille Calzi from 1917 to 1919, the fanciful creations by Castellini & Masini during the 20’s and 30’s inspired by delicate “deco” up to the Farina Manufactory, or the elegant pieces by great artists such as Mario Ortolani, Mario Morelli and Pietro Melandri.
These artists’ original innovations link up with the artefacts of the 2nd post war period which met the new aesthetic and commercial demands determined by the socio-political and economic environment.
Notable examples are the refined pieces by the Cooperativa Ceramisti (some of the which designed by important painters like Alvaro Monnini), Guerrino Tramonti, Domenico Matteucci, Carlo Zauli, Gatti and Melandri. Their magnificent creations reflect the continuous expressive needs and creative solutions from the 1950’s onwards.
These are only a few examples which testify to the great impotance of the Matassoni Collection. A unique and complete study of this production.
The definition of “minor production” applied to these manufacturers is certainly limitative. Thanks to stylistic research, perfetc execution, decorative achievements and the interrelation with the social setting, they are entitled to play an important role in the history of 20th century Italian ceramics.