Factory: Capodimonte Porcelain Factory (Italian, 1743–1759)
Decorator: decoration possibly by Giovanni Caselli (1698–1752)
Date: ca. 1745–50
Culture: Italian, Naples
Medium: Soft-paste porcelain
Dimensions: Overall, irregular diameter (confirmed): H. 6 3/8 x W. 6 x D. 5 5/8 in. (16.2 x 15.2 x 14.3 cm)
Credit Line: Gift of R. Thornton Wilson, in memory of Florence Ellsworth Wilson, 1950
Accession Number: 50.211.266
This jar is distinguished by its uncommon subject matter, the superb quality of its painted decoration, and its lustrous, cream-colored, soft-paste porcelain body. The primary scene depicts a barren landscape with three Pulcinellas, who are immediately identifiable by their traditional costume of loose tunic, baggy trousers, tall hat, and black mask with hooked nose. The Pulcinellas are depicted, respectively, carrying a branch, riding a donkey, and blowing a trumpet, and the significance of these activities remains unclear. The somewhat otherworldly aspect of this composition is enhanced by the delicate, stippled technique in which it is painted, as well as by the muted palette of browns, greens, yellow, and violet.
The intended function of this jar is not apparent. The projecting edge under the top rim suggests that it would have had a cover, which in turn indicates that it would not have served as a vase, a planter, or a wine cooler—three functions that have been variously proposed for this jar. Covered cylindrical vessels of this height are unusual in European eighteenth-century porcelain, and it is uncertain whether this jar was meant to be utilitarian or purely decorative.