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The collection comprises over 100 pieces and was assembled by Roberto Procida Mirabelli di Lauro from the early 1960s until his death in 2009. Photo: Bonhams

LONDON.- The fantastic Procida Mirabelli di Lauro collection of Italian porcelain is to be auctioned at Bonhams, New Bond Street on Tuesday 6th July. This Italian single-owner collection, the most comprehensive of its type to ever come on to the market, is expected to fetch £300,000-500,000.

Among the highlights of the sale are four plates from the Servizio del’Oca made for King Ferdinand IV’s private use, estimated to sell for £5,000 - £8,000, a rare Doccia perfume bottle, circa 1745-50, estimated to sell for £4,000 - £6,000 and a collection of Doccia snuffboxes, circa 1790, estimated to sell for £5,000 - £12,000. Also on offer are several documentary pieces from the Real Fabbrica Ferdinandea, amongst them a plate with a view of Virgil’s Temple, signed by Antonio Cioffi.

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An important Naples plate from the Servizio delle Vedute Napolitane, called Dell'Oca. Circa 1792. photo Bonhams

Of moulded shape, the central medallion with a titled view of the Veduta de'fossi nella strada di Foria or a view of the excavations in the street of Foria, with in the background the fuming Vesuvius, all surrounded by gilt flower festoons and a red and blue border, 24cm (haircrack)  Estimate: £7,000 - 9,000

Provenance:  Ferdinand IV, King of Naples and the Two Sicilies;
Collection of W.P. Harbeson, collectors label to the reverse;
With Don Peppino Giglio;
Acquired from the above in 1972;
Collezione Procida Mirabelli di Lauro, Naples, no. 101

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Literature: As published in Caróla-Perrotti 1978, cat.no.100, plate XCIV

The Servizio delle Vedute del Regno became popularly known as the 'Servizio del'Oca'. The name 'Oca' or 'Goose' refers back to the shaped finial on the tureens from this service, which in its turn is based on a famous sculpture from the Antique, now the Musei Capitolini, of a young boy holding a goose. The larger part of the service, 411 pieces, is kept in the Museo Capodimonte. There are only very few pieces of this service in private hands.

In 1792 Domenico Venuti received a letter from the 'Vedore del Reale Ramaglietto', Luigi Perschie on behalf of Ferdinand IV, King of the Two Sicilies and later King of Spain (1751-1825). In it, Perschie requests for a replacement of the existing Court Service which was 'spari e in mal ordine' [too few and in bad condition] (see Caròla-Perroti, 1978, p. 158). The King had earlier ordered some elaborate services in neo-classical style which he presented as gifts, amongst them the Etruscan service (1785-87) to King George III, and the Herculaneum service. The service he now requested from Venuti, however, was much more to his own taste than the Servizio Ercolaneo, which he presented to the his father, King Carlos III, in 1782. Commissioned as a court service, the Servizio delle Vedute Napolitane would have been used at official occasions at the Court, visually re-iterating the splendour of the Kingdom under Ferdinando IV.

When Domenico Venuti became director of the Naples factory in 1779, he broke radically with its Rococo past used at the Capodimonte factory, and whole-heartedly embraced the new neo-classical style that was being adopted all over Europe. Often shapes and decorations were based on the many archaeological finds and the large number of antiquities in the collection of the King. One of the most famous collections of antique sculpture, the Farnese Collection, comprising marbles from the Caracalla Baths in Rome, was moved in its entirety to Naples by Ferdinando IV in 1787.

Venuti was no stranger to the Antique, his father was an archaeologist, and Superintendent of Antiquities for the city of Naples. The service designed by Venuti depicts detailed views of Naples and surrounding areas as well as images of famous archaeological sites such as Herculaneum (1738) and Pompeii (1740), all discovered during the reign of Carlo III. As Angela Caròla-Perrotti points out, the use of the archaeological views indicates a keen interest to measure the potency of the current Kingdom to the wealth and riches of the Antique. For the landscape scenes the factory made use of the well known book Illustrations de Voyages pittoresques de Naples et de Sicile' by Abbé de Saint Non, published in 1785. In addition to these well known images however, there are also many scenes taken after nature by the painters Berotti and Santucci during their work for the Servizio delle Vestiture del Regno.

Angela Caròla-Perrotti writes (2010, p.320) that for each of the most important services (as modelled by Venuti), Filippo Tagliolini created an extraordinary dessert to complement the miniature painting on the porcelain: for the Servizio delle Vestiture or Service of Regional Costumes, (see lot 64 in this sale) single figures as well as groups were made in polychrome porcelain and biscuit, representing the same townspeople and peasants as on the gouaches used to decorate the wares. To accompany the Servizio delle Vedute Napolitane, an even more elaborate scheme was developed. A new 'park' was developed in 1792, called the Real Passagio, which included figures from the Neapolitan bourgeoisie and, according to one document, 75 figures dressed in the fashions of the day and described in the factory as bernesche because of the gently satirical way in which they were portrayed.

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An important Naples plate, possibly from the Servizio delle Vedute Napolitane, called Dell'Oca. Circa 1792. photo Bonhams

Of moulded shape, the central medallion with a topographical view of the fontana di Santa Sofia a Benevento, all surrounded by gilt flower festoons and a red and blue border, 24.5cm diam, crowned N in underglaze-blue. Estimate: £6,000 - 8,000

Provenance: Ferdinand IV, King of Naples and the Two Sicilies;
With Don Peppino Giglio;
Acquired from the above in 1964;
Collezione Procida Mirabelli di Lauro, Naples, no. 37-II

Although the gilt border around the miniature painting on the cavetto differs from the borders on the plates of this service, it is most likely to be part of it. It has been suggested that this plate and the following could have been trial pieces for the service.

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Another plate from this service with the same view but with the more opulent gilt border is illustrated in Mottola Molfino (1976), plate LII. Here, the author refers to the importance of the engravings as published in the famous volumes of J.C.R. De Saint-Non, Voyage pittoresque ou description des Royaumes de Naples et Sicilie, which formed the main source for the topographical views on this service. These views also inspired other artists such as C.W. Weisbrod and E.de Ghendt to create etchings of this subject. The use of these views on porcelain is strongly aligned with the fashion for the romantic topographical views as painted by famous artists such as Filip Hackert and Antonio Jolie (Motola Molfino, op.cit. cat.no. 280).

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An important Naples plate, possibly from the Servizio delle Vedute Napolitane, called Dell'Oca. Circa 1792. photo Bonhams

En suite with the previous lot, of moulded shape, the central medallion with a Neapolitan topographical scene of a church close to the sea, the Castello dell'Ovo in the background, All surrounded by gilt flower festoons and a red and blue border, 24.4cm diam, crowned N in underglaze-blue, (some very faint typical glaze-cracks) Estimate: £6,000 - 8,000
Provenance: Ferdinand IV, King of Naples and the Two Sicilies;
With Don Peppino Giglio;
Acquired from the above in 1964;
Collezione Procida Mirabelli di Lauro, Naples, no. 37-I

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An important Naples plate, possibly from the Servizio delle Vedute Napolitane, called Dell'Oca. Circa 1792. photo Bonhams

En suite with the previous lot, of moulded shape, the central medallion with a Neapolitan topographical scene of a quarried road with peasants, all surrounded by gilt flower festoons and a red and blue border, 24.cm diam, crowned N in underglaze-blue (one haircrack to rim, some very faint typical glaze-cracks and staining) Estimate: £5,500 - 6,500
Provenance: Ferdinand IV, King of Naples and the Two Sicilies;
With Don Peppino Giglio;
Acquired from the above in 1964;
Collezione Procida Mirabelli di Lauro, Naples, no. 37-III

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A rare Doccia scent bottle. Circa 1745-55. photo Bonhams

Of flat circular shape with a long slender neck, the collar and base of the bottle with concave and convex chrysanthemum pattern, two women's heads one either side of the bottle, each side with a spray of Kakiemon flowers and a little insect perched on the neck, the purple petals alternated by hatched motifs alternated with gilding, set in a gilt metal mount, 9.5cm. Estimate: £4,000 - 6,000

Provenance: Anonymous sale, Christie's Geneva, 20 Nov 1970 lot 444;
With Lukacs-Donath;
Acquired from the above in 1972;
Collezione Procida Mirabelli di Lauro, Naples, no.108

A highly comparable bottle of the same shape and with comparable decoration is in the collection of the Museo Duca di Martina in Naples (inv. 1997), where also another undecorated bottle is kept (inv. 1991). A highly comparable bottle was sold at Sotheby's Milan, 13 November 2007, lot 164, and another fiascaprofumo of a slightly smaller shape and without the applied masks is illustrated in Andreina d'Agliano 1996, p.46, cat.no.32. It is noteworthy that the stopper of the bottle illustrated is of the exact same shape as our bottle. The decoration scheme on this little bottle seems to borrow heavily from earlier productions at the Viennese Du Paquier factory, so instrumental in the development of decoration schemes and indeed technical developments at the Doccia factory in its earliest days. Various such scent bottles are illustrated by Chilton (2009) p. 1313f.

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A Doccia gilt-metal mounted box 'a Cammei Bianchi'. Circa 1745-1750. photo Bonhams

Decorated with moulded white cameo portraits of philosophers and poets from Antiquity, framed by puce and iron-red cartouches, all of them named in gold in the moulded ribbon trailing over the cartouches, the inside of the cover with a large framed flower spray, 7.5cm x 5.5cm (minor wear to gilding) Estimate: £8,000 - 12,000
Provenance:  With Don Peppino Giglio;
Acquired from the above in 1979
Collezione Procida Mirabelli di Lauro, Naples, no. 154

Literature: As illustrated in Beaucamp-Markowsky, 1985, cat.no. 467

The production of objects of vertu or 'galanterie' was of great importance to Doccia factory. Biancalana shows (2009, p.168) that the factory had a 'Laboratorio degli Argentieri', which was founded in 1744-45. Its principle purpose was creating mounts for boxes and snuff bottles and boxes, and two foreigners, Frenchman Jean-François Racein and the German Johann Georg Komette. By 1758, joining or 'legare' the boxes was still being done in the factory, but the job of overseeing these activities is passed on to Michele Taddei.
The moulded decoration of the 'tabbachiere dei Cammei' or snuff boxes with cameo-moulding would have changed from box to box, but there are three main groups, those with Roman Emperors, Alexander the Great and the subsequent Emperors of Egypt and the great thinkers and poets of antiquity. The most prolific painter of these boxes was the famous Giusepe Romei, who is first found in the factory records in 1742. Between 1743-49 he was paid for painting at least 37 snuff boxes, and possibly more, many of them with non-specified cameo-moulding (see Biancalana, op.cit. p.134f.). The 'Cammei' were also used for the decoration of Bassorelievi or low-relief moulded plaques. A plaque with highly comparable titled portrait plaques is illustrated by Biancalana, op.cit., p.112.

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A Doccia gilt-metal mounted box 'a Cammei'. Circa 1760. photo Bonhams

En suite with the previous lot, decorated with polychrome cameo portraits, each cameo set against a moulded shell, the sides each with three portraits, alternating in size, 7.5cm x 5.5cm. Estimate: £8,000 - 12,000
Provenance: With Don Peppino Giglio;
Acquired from the above in 1989;
Collezione Procida Mirabelli di Lauro, Naples, no 181

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A very rare Doccia snuff box. Circa 1745-50. photo Bonhams

Of moulded shape, the cover decorated with a portrait of a nobleman wearing a red jacket and purple cloak, surrounded by sprigs of Kakiemon flowers, all the sides of the box including the base with elaborate Kakiemon-style flowers in polychrome colours, the inside with a finely painted portrait of a lady playing the lute, set in a contemporary copper-gilt mount, 6.8cm wide (restoration to one corner or cover) Estimate: £7,000 - 10,000

Provenance: With Lukacs-Donath;
Acquired from the above in 1978;
Collezion Procida Mirabelli di Lauro, Naples, no. 151

Literature: As published in Beaucamp-Markowsky 1985, cat.no.474., colour plate on page 492.

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A documentary Naples, Real Fabbrica Ferdinandea plate. Circa 1773-75. photo Bonhams

Painted by Antonio Cioffi, with a view of Virgil's Tomb, under a moulded border of palm leaves alternated by sprays of flowers in gold relief, 23.5cm diam, crowned FRF in iron-red. Estimate: £5,000 - 7,000

Provenance: With Don Peppino Giglio;
Acquired from the above in 1977;
Collezione Procida Mirabelli di Lauro, Naples, no. 177

Literature: As illustrated in Caròla-Perrotti 1978, plate VIII and Caròla-Perrotti 1986, plate LVIII

Exhibited: Le Porcellane dei Borbone di Napoli, Capodimonte e real Fabbrica Ferdinandea 1743-1806, Museo Archeologico, Naples, 1986

Apparently signed, lower left 'A.C.' for Antonio Cioffi, as published by Angela Caròla-Perrotti (1978, plate 8, cat.no.9, p.129 ff.). Antonio Cioffi was one of the very few painters that was working already at the Capodimonte factory, and when he came to the Real Fabbrica in the summer of 1773, his positive influence on the quality of the miniature painting at the factory is soon felt. According to Caròla-Perrotti (op.cit. p. 129ff.), there are only three plates that clearly show this transitional stage between the baroque forms of the Capodimonte factory and full-out neoclassicism adopted at the Reale Fabbrica Ferdinandea (See Caròla-Perrotti, 1978, plate II, now in the Palazzo Madama in Turin, plate IX, from a Neapolitan private collection, and VIII, our plate). The complete filling of the cavetto with miniature painting, the rim serving as a frame to the painting, as seen on all three plates is very typical of the decoration style at Capodimonte. The border of two, including ours, also still bear the so-called puntiforme or moulded decoration of the border, so typical of the Capodimonte factory.

Virgil's tomb was one of the most iconic sites from Antiquity in Naples, and it served as a popular subject to artists from the Romantic School flocking to Naples as the last leg of their Grand Tour, from all over Europe. The tomb was a must-see, comparable to Capri's famous blue grotto, and was often depicted at night or at dusk, a time of day similar to the depiction on our plate. The tomb is a Roman burial vault dating back to the Augustan age, close to a Roman tunnel known as the grotta vecchia or cripta napoletana in the Parco Virgiliano, between Mergellina and Fuorigrotta.

While Virgil was already the object of literary admiration and veneration before his death, his tomb became the object of pilgrimages and pagan veneration. The poet himself was said to have created the cave with the fierce power of his intense gaze. When Virgil died at Brindisi in 19 BCE, he asked that his ashes be taken back to his villa just outside of Naples.

The collection comprises over 100 pieces and was assembled by Roberto Procida Mirabelli di Lauro from the early 1960s until his death in 2009. It includes highlights of Neapolitan porcelain of exceptional diversity and range of objects, from rare 16th century Venetian maiolica to precious late 18th century Doccia porcelain and French and Italian snuff boxes. Many of the pieces have been published in the standard literature on the subject.

The highlights of the collection are the neo-classical pieces from Real Fabbrica Ferdinandea, many of which were created in a spirit of competition with Austria under the patronage of Ferdinand IV, King of Naples and the Two Sicilies and his consort Maria Carolina von Habsburg, sister of Queen Marie Antoinette of France. Maria Carolina of Austria married Ferdinand in 1768 and moved from her homeland of Austria to Naples. At the time Austrians were producing beautiful neo-classical porcelain, which also was sent to Naples, so perhaps in a spirit of competition, Maria Carolina and Ferdinand restarted their factory and encouraged porcelain production in the neo-classical style. The resulting works became world-renowned, not in the least when they started serving as diplomatic gifts to the Spanish court and as souvenirs for Lady Hamilton and other English nobility passing through Naples on their Grand Tour.

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A rare Naples, Real Fabbrica Ferdinandea cup and saucer. Circa 1783-88. photo Bonhams

Decorated with a tin-glaze and titled views of the Arco Felice and the Quartiere dei Soldati in Pompeii, set within a gilt border of laurel leafs, the rim with gilt bands enclosing a floral band in gold, the handle with a scroll handle with acanthus terminal, crowned RFR in red to saucer, (minute glaze chip to back of saucer and edge of handle) (2) Estimate: £3,500 - 5,500

Provenance: With W.P. Harbeson, old collectors label to the back;
With Don Peppino Giglio;
Acquired from the above in 1972;
Collezione Procida Mirabelli di Lauro, Naples, no. 102

Literature: As illustrated in Caròla-Perrotti, 1978, plate XLIV, cat.no. 50

The decoration of this cup is very finely painted and directly rivals the Vienna porcelain produced under Conrad von Sorgenthal. The fashion for Viennese neo-classical porcelain came to Naples through the consort of the King of Naples, Ferdinando IV, Maria Carolina of Austria, daughter of Maria Theresa of Austria. The white and even paste of the Vienna factory was hard to achieve in Naples, and the factory decided to use a tin-glaze, or smalto allo stagno to cover up impurities, a method used at the Doccia factory as well. Tin glaze was used at the factory between 1783 and discontinued in 1788. The decoration is executed in an extremely fine and accomplished manner, and it is not hard to see the similarities in decoration between our cup and a small covered ecuelle and stand in the collection of the Museo Duca di Martina in Naples, as illustrated by Caròla-Perrotti (1978, plate XLIV and XLV). For further reading on the collection of Viennese porcelain of the period of Conrad von Sorgenthal see Ambrosio (2006), p.167-197.

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A Naples, Real Fabbrica Ferdinandea cup and saucer. Circa 1790-1800. photo Bonhams

Decorated with named topographical views of the Tempio di Diana e Castello di Baja and a Veduta delle Crocelle, e Castello del Ovo, set under a gilt border with floral gilt festoons, (short haircrack to base of handle) (2) Estimate: £3,500 - 4,500

Provenance:  With Don Peppino Giglio;
Acquired from the above in 1965;
Collezione Procida Mirabelli di Lauro, Naples, no. 8

Based on the famous etchings of the Voyage Pittoresque published in 5 volumes, between 1781 and 1786 by Abbé de Saint Non.

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A Naples, Real Fabbrica Ferdinandea cup and saucer. Circa 1790-1800. photo Bonhams

Decorated with neo-classical scenes after Pompeian fresco's, the saucer with a scene of a man seated on a chair, the other of two women offering fruit, all beneath a black and gilt border, gilt floral festoons surrounding the back of the cup and the border of the saucer, crowned N in underglaze-blue to cup and saucer, rectangular old collectors label '1045' to base of saucer (2) Estimate: £3,000 - 5,000

Provenance:  With Don Peppino Giglio;
Acquired from the above in 1966;
Collezione Procida Mirabelli di Lauro, Naples, no. 39

Literature:  As illustrated in Caròla-Perrotti, 1978, plate CXIV, cat. no. 124

The scenes on the cup and saucer were taken after the famous prints as published in the 8 volumes of Le Antichità di Ercolano Esposte published between 1757-1792.

Le Antichità di Ercolano Esposte was the most important archaeological work of the eighteenth century. The volumes were the first works produced by the Accademia Ercolanese, which was founded in 1755 on the orders of King Carlo III.
The marquis Bernardo Tanucci, who later became prime minister, was its first chairman. The Accademia - consisting of fifteen ordinary citizens whose principal task was to superintend the excavations whilst studying discoveries and publishing the results of research - began immediately to publish objects recovered from the excavations of Pompeii and Herculaneum.

The complete work was composed of about 619 big copperplate engravings printed to full-page size, some of them double. There are 836 vignettes, at the beginning and end of most chapters, and 540 capital letters designed by Luigi Vanvitelli and engraved by Carlo Nolli.

Nette Megens of Bonhams comments, “The collection of Roberto Procida fits neatly in the generation of Neapolitan collectors that were extremely rounded in their knowledge and had a wide range of interests, in his case varying from French snuff-boxes to Italian maiolica. He collected for over 35 years with continued curiosity and true love of the subject, and his passion clearly shows in his choice of objects.’’