Treasures in Your Attic: A Long Pedigree for a Relatively New Piece

 

Dear Helaine and Joe: My husband received this item from an aunt, and we would like to have any information that you can provide. The only marking is the one in the picture and it reads, “5325 Italy, Ardalt, Capodimonte Marino.” — C. P.

We are going to break down the mark step by step so this piece can be understood. First, the “5325” is a style number that refers to this particular box, or “casket.” We do not know the size so we cannot be sure of the purpose for which this box was designed to be used, but we will speculate that it is a small jewelry box.

Next, we will skip to the word “Capodimonte,” which should actually be spelled “Capo-di-Monte,” or “top of the mountain.” But this is really just a quibble, because most modern spellings of this place name do leave out the dashes and capital letter and make it into one word — and that is OK with us.

The story begins with King Charles III of Naples, who established a porcelain making factory in 1743 at his palace just outside of Naples known as Capo-di-Monte. But when King Charles got something of a promotion and became King of Spain in 1759, he moved his best workmen, models and clay to a new factory near Madrid called El Bueno Retiro.

Capo-di-Monte was idle until 1771, when King Ferdinand of Naples revived the factory and soon moved it into Naples proper, where it produced both soft-paste (artificial) and hard-paste (true Chinese-style) porcelain until 1821. Later, the molds were reportedly sent to the famous Ginori factory at Doccia, Italy.

It should be noted, however, that Capo-di-Monte’s most famous mark — a crowned “N” — has been used by a rather large number of companies over the years, including E. Bohne of Rudolstadt, Germany, and Carl Theme of Potschappel, Saxony, Germany. The presence of the word “Italy” means the piece was made in that country in accordance with the McKinley Tariff Act, which went into effect in 1891.

But the most important part of the mark is probably “Ardalt,” which tells the tale of when this piece was made. Ardalt is an American importing company that had its offices on Madison Avenue in New York. It started its importing in 1945 after the end of World War II. Most of its wares came from Japan, but some did originate in Germany, France and Italy.

The “AA” paper label is often found on porcelain giftwares of the low to middle range, and the particular piece belonging to C. P. was probably made sometime in the 1950s or ’60s. Ardalt reportedly went out of business sometime in the 1980s. Finally, the word “Marino” seems to refer to the style of this piece with its design of sensual lovers and flying cupids.

The products imported by Ardalt are considered by most collectors to be relatively modern, moderately priced giftwares, but the Capo-di-Monte name does help a bit. Still, the insurance value of this piece at this time is probably less than $50 (unless it is a large size).


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