MILAN, ITALY.- A single-owner property will open the new 2005 auction season at Sotheby's Milan: the private collection of the well-known antiques dealer of Turin Enrico Questa, whose long and specialized activity had been exclusively devoted - with passion and high competence - to maiolica and porcelain at its highest quality.
There is a characteristic that makes Enrico Questa unique among the greatest ceramic dealers from the Sixties on: he was one of the few who at highest level was able to combine trading with collecting and studies. A strategic, long-sighted outlook that together with a taste for quality allowed him to buy important objects, often ahead of studies but always submitting them to scholars from whom he obtained the confirmation of his intuitions; he used to lend important pieces for exhibitions but kept for himself - for his private collection now at auction - every unique, rare and important piece he discovered. The 360 lots of the collection offered on sale will include also the whole library of the dealer, obviously devoted to this collecting field: important and rare volumes, useful handbooks, proof of this link between collector and scholar and true mirror of a 50-year-old activity as dealer at the highest level of the field.
The lots are equally divided between Maiolica and Porcelain, with items from the major Italian and 18th century manufactures: the most important maiolica are by Bassano, Savona (characterized by the bright cobalt blue monochromy, a color imported to Savona from the Far East) and Turin, together with other examples - always unusual and of quality - by other manufacturing.
From the manufacture of Turin we would like to mention, among the others, a blue and white maiolica dish, decorated with a coat of arms amongst scrolling foliage, dated 1649 circa, (diam. cm. 31); it is part of a series of heraldic dishes and is estimated € 1.800-2.500. The maiolica manufacture of Turin in Lodi style started at the beginning of 17th century and was active for 15 years; in 1649 a new manufacture founded by a group of Ligurian ceramists was rewarded by Duke Carlo Emanuele II of Savoy consenting them the use of the mark of a shield surmounted with a cross and the duke crown on their maiolica.
Again by the Turinese manufacture but dated later - 1770 circa - is the oval service polychrome dish decorated with a capriccio of ruins with sculptures and animals, a creation by Giorgio Giacinto Rossetti, a talented artist and a versatile decorator, one of the greatest Italian ceramists in 18th century. The diffusion of the Marseillais decoration "à rocaille figurée" marked him out in the North of Italy but his greatest merit was his particular, fanciful and less static rendering of this difficult pattern with arabesques, trophies of fruit and sprays of flowers, architectural motifs animated with monkeys, satyrs, feminine busts, a display of great skill - no corrections and second thoughts were possible as it was executed on uncooked enamel. The dish is estimated € 10.000-25.000.
It is by the manufacture of Savona the large fine heraldic dish in blue and white maiolica, 18th century, diam. cm. 38, decorated with an unusual allegorical scene, where a winged bearded old man - recognized as the Time - is carefully painting a vase held by a young woman in the centre - maybe the Ceramic or the Maiolica - on the right of the scene another old man with thin and ruffled hair is hugging a vase, probably at the potter's wheel. The real meaning of the scene - probably an allegory of Maiolica as eternal art - is not known but the decoration is at a very high level; estimate in catalogue is € 2.000-2.5000.
Dated to early 18th century is another Savona blue and white heraldic dish (diam. cm. 45, estimate € 4.000-6.000), realized by the Chiodo manufacture in Savona, similar to another one kept at the "Civiche Collezioni Genovesi" and recently featured at the exhibition "Bianco e Blu. Cinque Secoli di grande Ceramica in Liguria", held in Savona last year: both of them have the historical mark of the Genua lighthouse, whose privileged use had been consented to the Chiodo family at the end of 17th century and then kept throughout the following century. Also in this dish the quality of the rim decoration - the traditional Savona blue monochrome - with stylized scrolls of foliage in contrast with the centred drawing - almost a free-hand painting - of the spray of "potato flowers" (a very widespread flower in that period: a spray of potato flowers was gifted to the King of France, Louis XVI and his wife, Queen Marie Antoinette, began to use them as ornament for her hairstyles, from then on these flowers became very fashionable).
Extremely valuable are the examples offered from the manufacture Antonibon of Bassano, like the blue and golden soup-tureen with cover and stand, Nove di Bassano, circa 1770, estimated € 10.000-15.000; the ribbed shape of the tureen was kept for a very long time in the production of the Antonibon manufacture so that it became one of their traditional figure. The decoration is "a ponticello" but in a rare version: beside the usual fancy landscape - clearly inspired by Far East - of islands on top of arched roots (ponticelli - little bridges) with pagodas, trees and flowers, there is an unusual two-colour decoration - coming from the Lodi maiolica tradition - with details painted in a vivid cobalt blue and in "rosso Nove" (red of Nove colour), which creates an original effect of "doratura povera" ("plain gilding").
In the section of the catalogue devoted to porcelain the major group of items are by the Doccia, Cozzi and Meissen manufacturings but many examples will be by other famous manufactures, such as Capodimonte and Vezzi.
The core of this section is certainly the group of 4 dishes from the magnificent porcelain service created by the Ginori Doccia manufacture 1750 circa by order of the family Marana Isola of Genua. The dishes are centred with the coats of arms of marquis Francesco Marana and his wife Laura Isola - close friend of marquis Carlo Ginori, creator of the manufacture - with flowers and insects and decorated rims; this kind of decoration was used mainly by Claudius Du Paquier manufacture in Vienna (1718-44) with whom Carlo Ginori was strictly in contact at the beginning of his activity. It seems that some pieces of the service are still kept by the Marana family descendants; other items have been scattered in some public and private collections in Italy and abroad, such as the Museo Civico in Turin, the Musée des Arts Décoratifs of Paris, the Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg. Estimates for the dishes ranges from € 15.000 to 25.000 each.