THE CERAMIC ART IN UMBERTIDE
curated by Fabio Mariotti
The potters of Fratta from 1400 to 1800
The working of ceramics in our city, which was then called Fratta, dates back to 1400 as reported by Filippo Natali in his essay "News and memories on the figuline and the art of the potter in FRATTA (Umbertide)" published by the Tipografia Tiberina in 1890. “News that the Magi, Cristiani and Pellicciari left handwritten, village historians who lived between the first half of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and which are preserved in the Communal of Perugia. But what better than anything else attests to the existence of ceramic factories in Fratta, are the works themselves, as can be seen from the objects scattered around the various museums and private collections, not only in Italy, but in Europe. also, manufactured in this place ". Natali reports what was written by the Magi on the so-called "War of the Grand Duke of Tuscany" and the siege of Fratta in 1643: "The Florentine army after having given free passage and
walk to the prey and luggage, he made high, part beyond the Nicone,
part of this river, and waited for the slope of the waters (sic)
in order to cross the Tiber and attack the Earth from the weakest side;
also the Pallavicino to have its people more united, and to take away from the
Every advantage of the Florentines caused all the houses and shops to be set on fire
of the village and the market square, where the Vasari business in that
time, to the great benefit of the public and private sectors, it flourished. Fire
lit in the church of S. Erasmo, it was secretly pitiful by some
extinct soldiers. The rest was completely incinerated. It was all done
with such speed, that the owners of the shops and houses did not have
time to save anything ".
"The furnaces and the shops of the potters of Fratta, burned and destroyed in 1643,
arose further north of the country, no trace of the former can be traced,
for the houses that today were built on those rubble
make up the Largo di via Cavour (the current area of Piazza Marconi, Ed.)
at most it could be found in Campo Mavarelli near the road
limited by the wall. The new furnaces were raised near the mill, where
still today there are three, those of Martinelli, whose family for a series
of uninterrupted generations, he has practiced and still exercises the art of the potter;
and I am not mistaken to say that the scratch works that can be seen in some collections,
of the 17th and 18th centuries have come out of the Martinelli factory… .. ”.
This centuries-old tradition has been revived since the first half of the twentieth century by courageous and innovative entrepreneurial initiatives that have been able, despite a thousand difficulties, to establish themselves on a national level, starting with that of Ceramiche Rometti .
The rediscovery of this artistic and high-quality entrepreneurial activity is due, in my opinion, to the great exhibition that the municipal administration of Umbertide dedicated in 1986, in the new exhibition space "Center for contemporary art" recently created at the restored Rocca, to the works created by Cagli and Leoncillo in the period in which they worked within the Umbertidese manufacture. It is no coincidence that the exhibition had this title: “Cagli and Leoncillo at Umbertide's Ceramiche Rometti”. Inaugurated on 13 September, it ended on 30 November 1986 with a great success with the public, testified by the presence of over two thousand people from all over Italy. There could not have been a better start for the Rocca's exhibition space which, in its 35 years of activity, has hosted the works of the best Italian interpreters of contemporary art and which continues to do so even today.
After Rometti, from one of its ribs, Ceramiche Pucci was born in 1947 on the initiative of Eng. Domenico Pucci whose business ceased in 1962, after he changed his company name to Maioliche Pucci in 1958. Despite the short period of time in which the Ceramiche Pucci operated, they showed "the significant expression of an artistic path that has left an indelible mark on each of its specimens", as stated by Angelica Pucci at the end of her essay, dedicated to the history of this manufacture, published in the catalog of the exhibition held at the Rocca in 2006.
CERAMICHE ROMETTI - History of a manufacture
by Marinella Caputo
(From the catalog of the exhibition "Le Ceramiche Rometti" - Rocca di Umbertide "Center for contemporary art" - June / November 2005)
It is possible to say that the Rometti brand entered the history of Italian ceramics of the twentieth century, thanks to a happy combination of events.
The cultural climate of the twenties, of enthusiastic experimentation, but also of functional rigor and technological momentum, must have undoubtedly favored the birth of an entrepreneurial project that was also a creative adventure, with difficulties and dark periods, but also unquestionable successes.
In the fervor and inventiveness that characterized the applied arts in those years, ceramics played a central role.
Already in the nineteenth century ceramic production was increased, thanks to the influence of the Arts and Grafts movement which rediscovered and valued artistic craftsmanship, together with the expertise and secrets of ancient traditions.
In the twentieth century a new social configuration, in which the middle classes are emerging, is at the basis of the great development of the production of decorative and functional objects destined for a wide diffusion.
There are many Italian centers in which new activities are started, just think that Richard Ginori was born in 1923, under the artistic direction of Giò Ponti, and the Italian Ceramic Society of Laveno in the same year began to make use of the collaboration of Guido Andlovitz. The versatile research of the two designers will lead to the affirmation of a trend that will soon spread very widely, stimulating the emergence of a taste that was certainly perceived as modern.
At a local level it is worth mentioning La Salamandra di Perugia (founded in 1923) which inaugurates a modern decorative line in the field of Umbrian ceramics.
The 1925 Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes in Paris, which became so famous as the starting point of a new style, called déco, in fact sanctions a trend already underway, giving it peremptory visibility.
Design applied to industry in the third decade of the twentieth century has, despite its inevitably pragmatic aspects, a flavor of utopia, nourished by the experience of the Bauhaus, or inspired by the various constructivist movements present in Europe.
In the Italian context, the theoretical source may perhaps be found in the manifesto of the Futurist Reconstruction of the Universe, published in 1915, with the signatures of Balla and Depero. The idea of "rebuilding the universe, cheering it up" must have seemed an electrifying prospect to many, in those roaring years, of heroic or sinister roars.
The need for a new taste, the urgency of a modern lifestyle, were no longer claimed by a privileged and blasée elite, but penetrated very deeply into society, becoming, as they say, a mass phenomenon.
This was the heated climate, on the creative and productive side, in which the Ceramiche Rometti di Umbertide saw the light.
“Ars Umbra” is born, the first embryo of Ceramiche Rometti
Settimio Rometti founded the de facto company Ars Umbra in October 1927 together with his nephew Aspromonte Rometti. Both are owners of the company, registered with the 1st Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Foligno, with a capital of L. 40,000 (1).
This is the official beginning of the Rometti Artistic Ceramics, even if for some years now, Settimio Rometti, who was an adult man well integrated in public life, had shown interest in ceramic production. His first contacts took place at the Pasquali Furnace (formerly Pasquali & Cerrini) in Umbertide. In 1920 the firm had founded a School of Art applied to Industries, where Rometti worked as a technical teacher. It is therefore to be assumed that he already had significant experience. The school represented a production reality for artistic majolica, glazed tiles and ceramics. The works were marked La Frattigiana-Umbertide, and it is assumed that Rometti's contribution in this type of activity was decisive. The Frattigiana becomes an independent factory, within the Pasquali Furnace (owned by Roberto Cerrini) and the collaboration of Settimio Rometti, in a role that we could define as artistic direction, constitutes the indispensable premise for the start of his own business.
Soon, the production of the Pasquali furnace and consequently of the Frattigiana, went through a crisis that culminated in the failure of 1923. Settimio Rometti, from this date until 1927, will certainly have designed his own factory, leading to the creation of Ars Umbra.
It is possible that in those years he had carried out a type of reduced production, with provisional means, dealing with practical problems, but also updating himself from an aesthetic and formal point of view.
His training in the field of drawing and applied art can be traced back to the Municipal Technical School, directed, from 1913 to 1926, by Decio Scuppa. We know that in 1910 Septimius and his brother Barbato were among the best pupils of Scuppa, who in that year was a teacher of drawing.
The graphic ability of Septimius is confirmed by drawings and canvases made at an older age, as there is no documentation of his youthful years.
In any case, his taste in the decorative field will certainly have refined in the early twenties, moving towards secessionist trends that still showed considerable vitality at European level.
The experience of the Roman secession, at the end of the second decade of the twentieth century, had created a beneficial opening towards the climate of the avant-gardes, helping to promote a new creative path, more meditated and certainly moderate, compared to the radical proposals. and traumatic, of futurism.
In his entrepreneurial project, Settimio welcomes the contribution of young people, in the figures of his nephews, Aspromonte, known as Riego, son of his brother Paolo and Dante Baldelli, son of his sister Stamura. His intention to give life to a new and quality creative proposal is clearly delineated from the very beginning. Since Umbertide did not have a prestigious ceramic tradition, such as Deruta, Gubbio or Gualdo Tadino, he sought his collaborators elsewhere. From Gubbio comes the turner Crescentino Monarchi, from Gualdo Tadino come the Angeli brothers, one a turner, the other a painter. From Rome, where he had gone to attend courses at the Academy of Fine Arts, his nephew Dante Baldelli arrived in 1928 and at this moment he would begin his fruitful collaboration with Ceramiche Rometti, which lasted a whole decade. His friends Corrado Cagli and Mario Di Giacomo will soon join him.
Corrado Cagli and Mario Di Giacomo arrive in Umbertide
This is the most experimental and innovative period of Rometti, a true golden age, perhaps evoked in many of the subjects that appear on the vases of those years. These are allegorical figures or scenes marked by an Edenic vision, expressed with youthful optimism and purity. There is, of course, a didactic intention that seems to escape the celebratory momentum so widespread at the time. However, it must be attested that most of the forms, the decorative repertoire and the figurations, which emerged in the first years of Rometti's life, will last for a long time, constituting the distinctive character of the manufacture.
It is an experimental and extremely productive era on the creative side.
The sculptures produced by Cagli and Di Giacomo between 1928 and 1930 represent artistic results of indisputable value and are configured as exclusive sculpture experiences. In fact, Cagli will subsequently develop his research especially in the field of painting and Di Giacomo will commit suicide in 1934.
At that moment the "black fratta" (NF) appears, as it is called in the commercial catalogs of Rometti. Sometimes the acronym NF is also found in the brand. Obtaining this enamel took on legendary tones that refer to a fortuitous circumstance.
According to oral testimonies, collected by Codovini, the composition derived from an error in the color formula. The result of the wrong dosage was placed in a two-quintal barrel and it was discovered by chance that it produced a metallic black of notable effect. The enamel owes its reverberant quality to the presence of lead crystalline, manganese and copper, with a prevalence of crystalline. This technical innovation, developed between 1927 and 1928, must undoubtedly have increased the plastic research of the artists, since it is a color particularly suitable for sculpture. Cagli created some of the most significant works of his debut in NF, such as Santone, Icaro, Eolo. Di Giacomo gave life to his figures as supple as arabesques, exploiting the evocative elegance of black and the surface, made mobile by iridescent reflections.
The euphoric climate that developed in Rometti's early years fed on many different components. The late echoes of the secession are welcomed above all by Settimio Rometti who crystallizes the organic element in stylized motifs in his plate with the Madonna of the grain (probably from 1927), organized in a dense two-dimensional texture. Even the tableware or services belonging to the early days of the manufacture have floral decorations, resolved in fluid cascades of emulsified colors.
On a similar level, of symbolist inspiration, are the Salome and other similar sculptures by Di Giacomo, while his Battitore belongs to a twentieth century tradition, for the synthesis of the volumes and futurist for the dynamism of the subject. The fundamental contribution of Cagli with his NF sculptures, plates and vases, has a rather eclectic connotation that will be analyzed more extensively in the course of the text. For the moment it is sufficient to state that the young artist looks in various directions, undergoes the fascination of a futurism that has become pragmatic and applicative, looks in the direction of Valori Plastici (see respectively Icaro and Santone) and at the same time opens up to international experiences. How can we not think, looking at the plate with the figure of a Reaper, a bacchant running with ear and scythe, of the Picasso of the famous Two women running on the beach (Paris, Picasso Museum) of 1922?
As for Dante Baldelli, who soon took over the technical and artistic direction together with Settimio and Aspromonte (3), his stylistic orientation certainly goes in the direction of deco and futurist graphics and design and many of his works find comparisons in ceramics. by Andlovitz, by Ivos Pacetti (Ilsa and Spica, Albisola), by GB De Salvo (Casa dell'Arte, Albisola Capo), by Tullio d'Albisola in the production of the Faci of Civita Castellana or of the Galvani of Pordenone.
He is an artist of remarkable graphic skills, updated on the most innovative orientations of Italian and international design.
The collaboration of Cagli and Baldelli. in the two-year period 1938-1939 it was undoubtedly very narrow, so much so that at times individual attribution is difficult. Both shared an interest in simple vascular shapes, emphasized by geometric motifs. among which concentric circles predominate, with graphite and painted linear figures, in which the hand of the single artist is more evident.
During his stay in Umbertide, Cagli often returned to Rome. At the end of 1929 he took part in an exhibition at the Società Amatori e Cultori di Belle Arti together with Balla, Dottori, Fillia, Prampolini and other futurists. The work he exhibits, Il Vasaio, seems a clear allusion to his current activity. Mascelloni attributes the NF sculptures to the period preceding the 1929 exhibition, while most of the vases should be ascribed to his second stay in Umbertide (1929-1930). This is a problematic dating, where brand analysis or stylistic definition rarely helps. The head of Icarus, however, with its highly aerodynamic character, is perhaps more directly connected than other works to the Futurist experience, and could be dated just after the exhibition, perhaps at the beginning of 1930.
Cagli definitively left Rometti at the end of 1930 to settle in Rome. Before leaving, he painted the wall paintings of the Mavarelli-Reggiani house, with agricultural scenes, commonly identified with the title Battle of the grain, the name of the project implemented by the fascist regime in 1925 to increase the production of wheat.
The language of these paintings finds compelling comparisons in many of the motifs found on the ceramics.
At this point Baldelli and Aspromonte (Settimio remains more concentrated on the administrative sector) become the dominant figures of Rometti, but Cagli's legacy remains, unequivocally, at least for the entire first half of the thirties.
Rometti launches on the national market
From 1931 the company began a greater presence on the market and a more intense advertising campaign (4). The first recognitions also arrive, such as the two gold medals obtained in that year, at the Nice Fair and at the Bologna Littoriale Fair. Participation in the Florence Handicraft Fair was also appreciated by the press, and so was the participation in the Permanent Umbrian Handicraft Exhibition in Perugia.
The following year is characterized by the renewed presence at the Craft Fair in Florence and at the Fiera del Levante in Bari. In relation to the latter, a sales and exit voucher was found with the heading Ceramiche 'Rometti Fonda "Ars Umbra Umbertide (Umbria). Among the cuttings of the typography Barbagianni di Umbertide, packaging labels were found with the words Icafa Industria" Ceramica Argento "Fonda Amedeo. It is a commercial collaboration, in view of the creation of a company that did not see the light due to the death of Fonda in an accident, which occurred during the journey to Umbertide to stipulate the company.
1932 is also the year of Mussolini's visit to Rometti. At this date the factory is in full working order. Fifteen workers work there, with a daily wage of L. 5-6 and six or seven women with a wage of L. 2-2.50. It is interesting to consider that the Santone head, the most expensive object for sale, cost L. 600 (Catalog Rometti 1931-1933).
In October 1932, Gerardo Dottori wrote an article on the "Empire", in which he talks about the success of some vases with subjects inspired by fascism and states: "Reading the news in the newspapers and seeing the photographs of the Rometti ceramics, we were amazed not to see the name of Corrado Cagli, who we knew was the creator, designer and often performer of these ceramics ". This is an important testimony that ascribes to Cagli vases and plates with subjects such as The March on Rome, I Ritardatari, L'Ascesa, however attributable to the artist on a stylistic basis and, in some cases, signed. Thus we have further confirmation of the duration of the creations of the two-year period 1928-1930.
The years between the third and fourth decade of the twentieth century, despite their creative verve, correspond, in Europe and the United States, to a period of profound economic crisis, in which exports undergo a significant decrease and objects luxury goods are increasingly exclusive and inaccessible to a large number of consumers, contrary to what had happened in the previous decade.
Even the Ceramiche Rometti, which had established themselves as an example of an original and poetic design, are suffering the effects of the economic crisis and Settimio, the company's dean, tries to run for cover.
We have already talked about the search for partnerships with the Fonda company in Pola, an attempt to inject new capital into the company. The data would lead to affirm that everything happened in 1932, rather than in 1934, because the documents that mention the Amedeo Fonda company date back to 1932, but it is possible that the negotiations went on until 1934, the year of the sudden death of Amedeo Fonda according to the testimonials. According to the story of Rolando Fiorucci, the Fonda company supplied the material for a line of cups with a silver ring at the base, too expensive to establish itself in a period of economic depression. In any case, Septimius was very upset by the event, seeing the possibility of saving Rometti vanish.
Also among the clippings of the typographical printed matter, a Program for the newly established "Ceramiche Rometti" Umbertide Limited Company, dated 1933, emerged. At that date, therefore, the Anonymous Company was in the process of being established and the heading Ceramiche Rometti Ars Umbra continued to be used. which also appears in the brands of the time.
Speaking of brands, the time has come to say a few words on a rather delicate issue. From 1927 to 1935 both "Ceramiche Rometti" and "Ars Umbra" (composed in a triangular graphic solution) were used with great ease, sometimes accompanied by "Umbertide" or "Made in Italy". sometimes a triangular graphic sign made up of three lines with the letters RCB at the vertices that certainly make us think of Rometti, Cagli, Baldelli. Between 1933 and 1935 we sometimes find the inscription SACRU of the Società Anonima Ceramiche Rometti Umbertide. It may be interesting , in this regard, to cite two articles on the V Triennale di Milano, both of 1933, one on the "Illustrated Magazine of the People of Italy", the other on "Lidel. The first talks about Sacru, the second by Ceramiche Rometti. It is therefore possible that the SACRU brand appeared sporadically even before SACU, perhaps on the initiative of Settimio who may have proposed it to the members of the manufacturer that will take that name by omitting the R of Rometti.
The variety in the trademark heading was explained by some former workers of the firm, who argue that beginners were required to practice signing before moving on to more demanding jobs. It can be assumed that there were signature models that the most inexperienced people imitated, choosing from the various headings. It is an image that gives a taste of lived to the typical Rometti italics.
Returning to the events of the manufacture, 1934 was the year of the establishment of the Società Anonima Ceramiche Umbertide, made up of twenty-five local shareholders, with shares of L. 50 each, (in number from 2 to 6).
In April 1935 the bankruptcy of the de facto company Ceramiche Rometti was registered with the Royal Civil Court of Perugia.
Neither Settimio nor Aspromonte were among the founding partners of Sacu and this is connected to the absence of the name Rometti in the new company name. It is known from oral evidence that Septimius did not take the decision well at all and left his city for some time, going to Rimini, to a local ceramic factory. A few months later he worked as a technician at La Salamandra in Perugia and, according to the oral testimony of Rolando Fiorucci, he subsequently went to France, to Nice, to work in the construction company of his brother Clotide. Fiorucci recalls that Septimius used to say: "I'm saving lira for lira, in order to be able to return to Rometti as an owner and not as a worker".
And he returned there, recalled by the Sacu partners who felt a deterioration in business after the departure of Settimio and his nephews Riego (or Smucchia) and Dante Baldelli, both outside Umbertide, Riego in Milan and Baldelli in Città di Castello.
In March 1937 the change of the company name to Sacru (Società Anonima Ceramiche Rometti Umbertide) was communicated to the Provincial Council of Corporate Economy.
The production of these years includes research on the shapes and color combinations of the glazes. Essential silhouettes, geometric decorations, the subjects are increasingly stylized. Black enamel is associated with coral red and in the polychrome, synthetic and fluid figurines, the combination of colors is rather lively.
The war years marked a period of sharp decline and, it seems, for about a year, of interruption, in the production of Rometti. In 1942 Settimio decides to leave Sacru and establishes the Rometti Settimio company, Artistic Ceramics Manufacturing.
In the meantime, Domenico Pucci had already become a majority shareholder in Sacru for some time and in 1943 he transformed the company from a limited liability company into a limited liability company, continuing to use the Ceramiche Rometti brand.
From 1942 to 1947 there are two Rometti companies
We are faced with two Rometti companies, one located in via Spalato (today via Spoletini - Ed), managed by Domenico Pucci, the other in via Garibaldi, managed by Settimio Rometti. The production is quite similar, but Settimio's Rometti gives more space to small sculptures, reliefs, plastic vases, while that of Pucci is more concentrated on services, boxes and small objects of use.
Settimio Rometti, in the new headquarters which is the same as the current Ceramiche Rometti (before moving to the new factory in the middle of the straight - Ed), can finally manage the new company by himself. The grandchildren took different paths, Dante Baldelli has his own ceramic factory in Città di Castello and Riego works in Milan, achieving some success as a window dresser. Next to the factory there was (and still is partly) a pine forest, where Septimius led the workers to do gymnastic exercises before starting work. In the vicinity, then, stallions were allocated seasonally who inspired the Rometti logo with the prancing horse that is found starting from 1942. There are also sculptures of the Rometti horse made in fratta black - which re-emerged after the early thirties - in shaded gray or in red.
The overlap of the two companies lasted five years, until the establishment of the Ditta Pucci in 1947.
The following year, the Rometti company also changed its name from Rometti Settimio to Ceramiche Rometti di Rometti Settimio and in 1952 it became a Limited Liability Company.
A series of sketches for the Four Seasons and the larger-scale realization of Primavera at the end of the 1940s give us an idea of Settimio's orientation, towards a lively and popular taste, perhaps to evoke freshness and vitality, after a period darkness of dictatorship and war.
The creation in the 1950s of functional or decorative objects, such as liquor and smoking sets, boxes in the shape of a house, baskets, candelabra, vases with relief elements, tiles and ornaments follows the trends of the era of a calm stylization and a picturesque, sometimes naive taste. In this phase, the company increased its exports and participated in exhibitions and fairs, such as the one in Milan, taking advantage of the climate of economic rebirth, widespread internationally.
Even the Pucci firm, oriented towards a production that favors tea or coffee services and other tableware, is experiencing a phase of economic stability that lasts throughout the 1950s. The Pucci Ceramics Company was liquidated in 1960.
Pietro Finocchi takes over from Settimo Rometti
Settimio Rometti retired from the scene two years later, leaving the company, which still exists today, to the partner Pietro Finocchi who had followed the events of the company since 1934 and had joined the company - since 1959 a general partnership - together with Manlio Banelli (who died in 1962).
We can therefore fix at the dawn of the sixties the epilogue of the historical period of the Rometti manufacturing, a disruptive project that tended to shape the taste, rather than follow it, but also a fascinating example of micro-history that involves the small center of Umbertide in a great creative experience.
* * * * * * * * * *
In the sixties the historical period of Ceramiche Rometti ended, however they continued their activity by orienting themselves towards a more commercial and less artistic production. Pietro Finocchi was replaced by Dino Finocchi who carried out the business with great commitment, also going through difficult phases linked to the crisis in the reference market.
With the arrival of Massimo Monin I, patron and entrepreneur of art, and Jean-Christophe Clair , multifaceted and visionary artistic director, Rometti begins in 2012 a new and prosperous phase, still ongoing. The extraordinary ability of the two manager-artists lies in finding a perfect balance between a contemporary vision and the enhancement of the Rometti heritage. The Manufacture boasts prestigious collaborations with brands and artists who have chosen its uniqueness to produce exclusive pieces and collections. B&B, Roche Bobois, Cartier, Borbonese, Fresh and many other big brands, international design names such as Ambrogio Pozzi, Liliane Lijn, Sergio Fiorentino, Chantal Thomass, Studio MAMO, Christian Tortu, Ugo La Pietra and Kenzo Takada: a constellation that shapes the past and present history of the iconic Rometti brand, fueling the race to collect pieces that have embellished almost a century of art.
The Rometti Ceramics Gallery
In 2011 the permanent art gallery of Ceramiche Rometti objects was inaugurated at the "Modern Factory", in Piazza C. Marx, the collection of works created by the artists who have worked in the prestigious Umbertidese factory in almost 100 years of history. . Corrado Cagli was one of the most important Italian artists of the twentieth century and at the beginning of his career he constantly worked on Ceramiche Rometti. The Cagli Archive therefore made an important contribution to the creation of the exhibition space. The collection consists of about 200 works recovered by the current owner in over 40 years from antique dealers, markets and private individuals that allow you to retrace the history of the company but also the history of Umbertide who is internationally recognized with this manufacture. The opening of this exhibition space, as well as the due recognition of the many people from Umbertide who have worked in the company in almost a century of history, also constitutes a new opportunity for the many art lovers and tourists who will visit Umbertide. You can admire objects made with the famous and unique "Nero Fratta" (metallic color with iridescent reflections) or with engravings on "bianchetto", another innovative technique by Rometti since the 1930s and finally decorations that marked a revolutionary phase for the tradition Italian ceramics.
The Rometti Prize
To relaunch its artistic production, re-engaging with the historical tradition, the Rometti Ceramics launched in 2013 the “Rometti Prize”, a special recognition that aims to reward projects and artists who offer an original contribution to the art of ceramics. Intended for students enrolled in academies and art and design institutes from all over the world who embrace the initiative, the Rometti Prize gives the finalists an internship in manufacturing where they will concretely carry out their project and a cash prize.
- “Le Ceramiche Rometti” - Ed. Skira, 2005 - Catalog of the exhibition at the Rocca
from 25 June to 6 November 2005;
- "Cagli and Leoncillo at the Ceramiche Rometti di Umbertide" - Ed. Mazzotta,
1986 - Catalog of the Exhibition at the Rocca from 13 September to 30 November 1986;
- "Amabili presenze - Ceramiche Rometti from Art Déco to Design 1927 -
2012 "- Catalog of the Exhibition in Rome from 3 October to 3 February 2013.
The photos were taken from the catalogs.
CERAMICHE PUCCI - The history
by Angelica Pucci
(From the catalog of the exhibition "Le Ceramiche Pucci" - Rocca di Umbertide "Center for contemporary art" - June / October 2006)
1947, the Ceramiche Pucci Umbertide are born
It was May 1, 1947 when Ceramiche Pucci Umbertide was officially born: "[...] in recognition of the effective and competent work carried out by the Sole Director Dr. Eng. Domenico Pucci in the ten years that have passed since he took over the administration of the company [...] "-, SACRU (Società Anonima Ceramiche Rometti Umbertide) considers it appropriate to change the company name to" Ceramiche Pucci Umbertide ", a limited liability company whose object is the production and trade of artistic ceramics of family and industrial use.
The presence of Domenico Pucci in the factory dates back. therefore, far back in time: former shareholder of Ceramiche Rometti Umbertide, managing director and then chairman of the company's board of directors from December 1936, starting from March 28, 1943 he became majority shareholder and sole director and without board of statutory auditors of the Ceramiche company Rometti Umbertide, which on that very date was transformed from a limited liability company to a limited liability company. In fact, it is therefore he who personally directs the new company, although this will still retain the "Ceramiche Rometti Umbertide" brand until May 1, 1947.
With perfect management continuity, of workers, systems and products, the Ceramiche Rometti brand therefore gave way to the Ceramiche Pucci brand in the middle of the post-war period. In the post-war reorganization, although much more attention was paid to the reasons of the market, the social principles that had always characterized the profile of the company were not evaded, accompanying its transformations and witnessing - with the presence among the shareholders of citizens of all social extraction and any economic power - how the artistic ceramics factory was felt by Umbertide not only as an economic force, but above all as the expression of a village community proud of being able to boast a quality product, the result of the skill of workers competent and specialized in the various sectors of the supply chain.
The management not only maintained this priority, but also worked to ensure that the social objectives could be satisfied in the best possible way, allowing the expansion of the activity, which even in the midst of the difficulties experienced by craftsmanship in general, saw the number of fifty-two employees.
Domenico Pucci was not an "artist", but an "entrepreneur" and as such he had long ago brought his managerial skills to the service of the business with a remarkable foresight for the time.
The character qualities, the propensity to always look forward with optimism even in times of difficulty and, above all, the experience gained through personal contacts with the Milanese environment, receptive to innovations and dynamic in the most disparate sectors of the economy, had always solicited great attention towards the production chain and the diversification of the product with the intention of marketing it not only on the Italian market, which was then in severe crisis, but also towards those foreign markets which, like the American one, showed interesting signs of vitality .
The economic marginality of the Umbrian region and of the town of Umbertide were therefore not an obstacle to the desire to project itself decisively on the national and international market with the awareness of the exquisite shapes and decorations, which still make today, of the remaining specimens, objects sought by the collectors from all over the world.
The birth of Ceramiche Pucci, however, takes place in a particularly difficult historical and economic moment, because, to the difficulties generated by the war, are added the no less serious ones of the post-war period when the urgency to rebuild what is necessary inevitably made the desire to look with interest at an asset that could be considered luxury.
The minutes of the assembly, already during the conflict, complained about the difficulties in supplying raw materials, the need to make up for the absence of male workers called up to arms with female personnel, the limitations or even the suspension, by government decree, of the production of an asset not compatible with the state of war, the almost total closure of international markets, energy costs in continuous rise.
Difficulties begin after the war
Despite this, with the exception of 1944, the year of the bombing of Umbertide, the financial statements manage to close in the black, albeit with extremely low margins. The real difficulties emerge after the war, just at the moment in which the transformation takes place and the Ceramiche Pucci brand is born. When in Italy the reconstruction begins, in fact. the artisanal sector does not find substantial support in the choices of governments, which instead goes to support large companies, as if only the latter had to support the economy of a country that was trying to recover. However, it should be noted that craftsmanship, by its very nature. it could not collect the breadth of consensus typical of large industry and agriculture. Disappointment and regret constantly emerge in the minutes of the post-war assembly which see the lack of government support as a serious aggravating factor in a situation that is already very difficult in itself, an inevitable consequence of the precariousness of the moment: the costs of raw materials undergo significant increases, electricity in 1949 it rose by about 50 per cent compared to 1947, the social and insured contributions paid by the employer increased by 40 per cent in 1948 alone, the percentages in banking transactions became ever higher.
Competition on the international manufacturing market of other countries that have resumed their activity becomes tighter, the internal market of the sector is in crisis, because that middle class, which constituted a large part of the clientele, is forced to turn its interest towards basic necessities.
All these difficulties hardly make it possible to maintain a balanced budget and jobs, but do not produce profits that can be reinvested to expand an activity which, in any case, in the small town, plays an economic role of fundamental importance.
To overcome the difficulties, action is taken on several fronts
The rather complicated entrepreneurial choices are faced by Domenico Pucci with immediate interventions on several fronts, with the primary objective of consolidating the presence in the market both in defense of jobs and of that "made in Italy" which, for his awareness and conviction, receives appreciation for the originality and quality of the product.
The key issues on which he decides to operate are many and simultaneously affect both the structural elements of the production process and distribution in the markets:
- reorganization of the supply chain;
- maintaining the old prices in order not to reduce sales beyond a certain limit and to safeguard production;
- diversification and upgrading of the product aimed at conquering foreign markets still sensitive to the taste and refinement of Italian artistic ceramics.
The modernization of the supply chain, which had already started between 1943 and 1944 when the factory was moved from via XII Settembre to via Spalato (now via Spoletini), is completed in the large, newly built premises which facilitate its reorganization in all aspects.
The geographical location, the lines of communication, the means of transport and the difficulties inherent in the historical period had led to choices that favored functionality and autonomy as much as possible. The latter went so far as to equip the company with functional appendages such as a sawmill for the production of packing cases and shavings, essential for the safe transfer of such delicate goods on long road, railway or even transoceanic sections. The processing residues were used, in winter, to heat the compartments, such as the warehouse, which were not reached by the heat produced by the ovens.
The organization of the company spaces was conceived by favoring a serial layout which required to incorporate the schemes of industrialized work without going to the highest levels of the production chain, not properly suited to an exquisitely and unequivocally "artistic" production. The location of the departments highlighted a specific attention to minimizing the travel spaces since the material, very delicate, in its various processing phases was transported without automated systems; the "dirty" areas were kept separate from the "clean" areas, and moreover, areas with a "naturally" controlled temperature were located, to allow a correct drying phase of the worked clays. The earth was pre-worked in an external pavilion, where, from the material first taken from the fields, by means of chalking and passing through the sedimentation tanks and filtering phases, clay loaves were obtained; these entered the real "factory" in which it was possible to identify the two "lungs" of the layout: the processing of clay and terracotta decoration, separated from each other by the area reserved for the cooking ovens, which served both departments. Being able to count on a stable supply of electricity, the wood-burning ovens used during the war had been replaced by electric ovens which, with a more stable and controlled cycle, the quality of the product increased.
There were always two stages of cooking (clay-bistugio, bistugio-decorated product), sometimes three when the artifact was finished in pure gold or with special enamels.
The intermediate location of the ovens area favored a balanced distribution of heat, which in winter kept the work spaces at temperature and in summer allowed the dissipation of excess heat to the outside, through suitable ventilation of the central area, without the other two departments were disturbed.
The warehouse for the storage of the finished product, packaging and shipping was a body adjacent to the production area and saw, for most of the time, the shipping area located in a strategic position towards the railway station, located in the immediate vicinity, since the delivery took place almost entirely by rail. From the warehouse the crates were transferred, on hand-pushed carts along a very short path, directly to the freight cars, through a reserved access at the rear of the station.
The exclusively commercial and accounting sector had a reserved area, but always and in any case contiguous to the production area, and was equipped with an exhibition room, which was nothing more than the historical archive of the objects produced, systematically marked with the number of catalog or often, as happened with the most commercially successful products, with a name that recalled the most evident characteristics of the decorative element.
Participation in fairs and exhibitions in Italy and abroad
Outside the factory, the company organization expressed itself with the marketing of the product through multiple initiatives aimed at developing the ability to enter the markets, first of all the representation system and participation in events of national and international interest such as trade fairs and permanent exhibitions. The more or less fixed presence of highly skilled representatives in strategic positions on the national and international territory (Europe, Central and North America, Japan) reveals choices sensitive to the reopening of markets after the war. The goal is to support competition from manufacturers from other European countries, such as France and Germany, or from outside Europe, such as Japan, which among other things benefit from the support given to the sector by national governments, that support which, as underlined previously, it lacked the productive vivacity and artistic originality of the Italian artisan enterprise.
It is always with a view to the market that Ceramiche Pucci are systematically among the exhibitors of the Fiera Campionaria di Milano, sporadically also among those of the Fiera del Levante in Bari and occasionally also among those present at the Toronto, Casablanca and Barcelona fairs, with costs often consistent, but still justified by the hope of rising turnover.
Upstream of these interventions there is an incessant and careful preparation of the
samples that every year see renewed shapes and decorations by
extremely qualified and competent workers, as well as sensitive to the needs of customers and to the orientations of taste.
In this regard, it is enough to recall the decorations in pure gold and special enamels that characterize the early fifties, when the taste is oriented towards greater richness and lively and brilliant colors, expression of a vision of reality now far from the austerity of the war period.
It is a very specific phase which, during the fifties, promoted particular decorative choices on the artistic level - which best characterize the originality of Ceramiche Pucci - and, on the commercial level, contributed to a valid affirmation of the product on the markets, positively influenced by the economic revival now underway.
However, artistic innovation never lost sight of the two fundamental needs of customers, to be identified in the double diversification of the product and prices, two fronts on which precise choices are made aimed at creating very varied objects; that from the object of pure and simple decorative furniture (vases, centerpieces, decorative tiles, etc.) goes up to the always very refined but functional artifact (tableware, tea, coffee, dessert, ice cream, smoking, for children etc.), or even the prestigious article that large confectionery industries, such as Perugina, Motta or Pernigotti, choose for the luxury packaging of their products.
The decoration, to adapt to a wide range of prices, differs while maintaining the same shapes to the object. Double-variant decorations are proposed, with gold and special enamels and, consequently, at a higher price due to the further firing phase; or without gold and special enamels, and therefore at lower prices, accessible to a wider clientele. This phase of intense research for artistic and market innovation sees Domenico Pucci present in the United States for a long time. where assisted by the capable collaboration of qualified representatives, he manages to place heterogeneous and rich samples which, at the time, allowed the foreign turnover to compensate for the stagnation of the internal market and which, today, find examples of products signed "Ceramiche Pucci Umbertide - made in Italy "jealously guarded by overseas collectors.
Since the shapes and the decoration are linked to the originality and inspiration of truly capable workers, it is not possible to forget the skill of the staff involved in the final realization of the product. The decoration entrusted to an almost exclusively female staff reveals the acquisition of exceptional abilities, of mastery of different painting techniques, in which already expert workers taught those young people who entered the world of work without the slightest experience.
Beyond, in fact, the apprenticeship courses that the company was able to organize in collaboration with the Professional Training School, the real school was the factory. where day after day the new generation learned and experimented the techniques of each production sector in order to become skilled workers and then carry out, in the first person, the dual role of "workers" and "masters. This approach to work played a role socializing of fundamental importance.
The factory also as a place for socializing
Inside the factory, in fact, a family atmosphere prevailed that excluded any strongly individualizing element, allowing different generations to relate with a spirit of collaboration and, something not to be underestimated at the time, it gave women ample space to achieve themselves thanks to constant and patient commitment required, which allowed them to acquire extraordinary skills, especially, as already mentioned, in the decoration sector.
There were many moments of socialization experienced outside working hours in the same spaces of the factory, spaces which, on special occasions, were decorated by the workers themselves to provide a pleasant background for playful moments also open to the participation of family members.
The aggregation was also favored by a village reality, at the time still contained within the limits of a community and by the same size of the factory; not so big as to contribute to the dispersion of interpersonal relationships, nor small enough to restrict them to a family level. A reality that has determined a particular way of conceiving the work experience and has significantly affected the aggregation process. In the fifties this is the physiognomy that characterizes Ceramiche Pucci and which, towards the end of the decade, begins to take on different connotations, strictly dependent on changes in taste and relations with an increasingly competitive market where new materials are imposed that allow obtain innovative products, with a satisfying aesthetic appearance, functional, resistant and less expensive.
In 1958 the Pucci ceramics are transformed into Pucci majolica and new modernization needs asked to be satisfied: the taste is oriented towards different shapes and decorations that are realized in a production of profound break compared to that of the past.
In this period the company is enriched by the precious contribution of Orfei, thanks to which the shape and the decoration evolve towards a greater geometricism and stylization which - although an artistic expression of value - distance the new production from those elements that characterize the Ceramiche Pucci in their truest expression.
This is a moment of different experiments also on the type of product, which is enriched by the coatings sector (floor and wall tiles), in which the taste of free and loose hand brushstrokes is revived.
The production of Pucci Majolica ceases in 1962
A choice was then required: to lower the level of manufacturing by moving towards a more commercial and less refined product or to raise the level towards an even more niche production that is less and less serial and essentially aimed at the collector's item.
Neither line was found to be prosecutable. The first would have denied the history of Ceramiche Pucci, which had made quality products its flag, and found even more fierce competition; the second would have to find in subsequent generations a vital spirit, which it did not find: different choices had already been made.
The decision made, even if it was painful. if it has not completely satisfied, it has at least complied with all the needs, especially in light of the fact that in the early sixties the economic boom was also reflected in Umbertide in a growth in production activities both within the same sector and in other quality manufacturers .
What remains today is, however. the significant expression of an artistic path that has left an indelible mark on each of its specimens.
- "Le Ceramiche Pucci" - Ed. Skira, 2006 -
Catalog of the exhibition at the Rocca
from 10 June to 22 October 2006
The photos were taken from the catalog (excluded
those of the carnival ball that they are
from the historical photographic archive of Corradi
and those of the exhibition at the Rocca and of the pages of
Umbertide Chronicles that are by Fabio Mariotti)