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Ceramic ware and porcelain for Richard-Ginori, Manifattura Doccia at Sesto Fiorentino (Firenze) and Manifattura San Cristoforo (Milan)
When the Richard-Ginori company won the Grand Prix at the Paris Expo of 1925 («Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs et Industriels Modernes*),1 the young Ponti had been «artistic director» for two years and had revolutionized the firm's entire output. (There were two Italian high spots at this Expo, Ponti's small neoclassical room and Prampolini's futurist room: both made a great impression on the French critics, while ignoring one another.)2 There were two sides to the «Ponti period» in the modern history of Richard-Ginori. At the Richard-Ginori factory in Doccia, Ponti not only designed (for the «skillful hands» of that time) the famous «Great Pieces of Art for Museums and Collections" but also organized its whole output into "families ofpieces» (from the large to the very small), pushing it in the direction of mass production. In the same spirit Ponti brought out the first complete catalog of «Richard-Ginori Modern Art Ceramics» (with texts in Italian and English),3 designed the advertisements for Richard-Ginori products in Domus in 1928, promoted Richard-Ginori's participation in the great exhibitions of the time, and created opportunities for the use of ceramics in major works of Anterior decoration.» This was Ponti's approach to collaboration with industry, and it was to remain this way for the whole of his life. He brought to it both enthusiasm and detachment. (In the same way his «neoclassicism» concealed a secret joke: angels carried golf bags through his mazes.4)
Carlo Zerbi and Luigi Tazzini, managers of the Doccia factory when Ponti joined the company, were the first people to receive the urgent «written/drawn letters» that were to shower onto all his future collaborators (they are his finest letters, free of deference and sentiment). They contained such instructions as «let the execution be expressive, and perfect and beautiful» and, for the vases, «let the architecture graze the clouds a little, it doesn't look bad: all the rest is fine." Or «copies should be made at once,» "reproductions of the pieces sold in Paris have to be very faithful and accurate: it is for the honor ofourfirm,» and «have all the new pieces photographed: we will send the pictures to Ojetti, to Paris and Monza: it is worth keeping a series or two for Maraini, who might write some articles for English and American magazines: have you read today's Corriere».?s
Among the collections of the Museo delle Porcellane di Doccia in Sesto Fiorentino are four hundred pieces from the «Ponti period,» part of the fifth period in the history of the factory. Ponti was to renew his collaboration later on during the thirties (when he was still able to rely on the «skillful hands» of Elena Diana) and again in the forties and fifties.