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A very Florentine adventure: or maybe not

The birth of the association of the Amici di Doccia (Friends of Doccia), is due, but this is well known, to John Winter’s (1944 – 2014) determination, a personality, I believe, among the most interesting in the field of art commerce and, more generally, of the connoisseurship of the Short Century. A man always poised between Anglo-Saxon culture (which belonged to him by birth and upbringing) and Tuscan culture (to which his affections and personal passions bound him), John was able to transport the best of both cultures into his creature. And it must be said that Florence and the Florentines did not hesitate to follow his intuitions: as anyone can see by scrolling through the names that gathered one afternoon in July 2003 in Florence to lay the ‘legal’ foundations of the dream imagined by John Winter.

A Florentine dream but also a very Anglo-Saxon one, therefore, in the strong collaboration, as he imagined, with the art market seen as an ally and not as an antagonist, and in the ability to imagine a path, certainly an ambitious one, that went from the recovery of the sources and prototypes of Doccia porcelain, to that of safeguarding one of the most extraordinary museums in the world, that of Sesto Fiorentino precisely. And then the idea of supporting studies, intervening in restorations, promoting events and exhibitions that would enhance one of the most fascinating artistic events in Tuscan culture and beyond: in short, doing for Doccia what had been done and was being done for other famous manufactures, such as Meissen or Sèvres.

He was an active part of that project for a number of years, particularly in love with one of the first initiatives undertaken, those Quaderni degli Amici di Doccia (Notebooks of the Friends of Doccia) that remain one of the most important portfolios in the association’s history, albeit full of successes. Above all, because one is struck, in those pages, by the ability to open up to the world, with contributions from outstanding researchers and scholars from all over the world.

The years have since taken me away from the active life of the Friends: they have continued their journey quite happily.

John Winter left us in 2014, in his much-loved home outside Lucca: but the validity of his project is all in the initiatives of the Friends, and in the quality of the results obtained. Scroll through the list of publications, of restorations, think of the participation, resolved in various forms, not only in the life of the Museum of Sesto Fiorentino but more generally in the development of knowledge of the history of the Ginori factory, and thus the bet made back in 2003 seems, to date, to have been won.

WHITE GOLD. Three centuries of Ginori porcelain is the title of the exhibition that the Poldi Pezzoli Museum and the Ginori Museum present to the public until 19 February 2024 in the rooms of the house museum in via Manzoni.

The exhibition, curated by Rita Balleri and Oliva Rucellai, respectively curator and head curator of the Ginori Museum, and by Federica Manoli, collection manager and curator of the ceramic collection of the Poldi Pezzoli Museum, recounts some of the most significant moments in the history of the manufacture of Sesto Fiorentino through a selection of works (about 60) coming not only from the promoting museums, but also from the Uffizi Galleries in Florence, from the Civic Museum of Ancient Art – Palazzo Madama in Turin, from the collections of the princes of Liechtenstein and from some important private collections.

«In the fictional history of European porcelain, made up of unbridled princely ambitions, feverish research and codes kept secret like precious treasures, the Ginori Manufacture has a marked character of uniqueness and the Poldi Pezzoli Museum is the most suitable and prestigious venue to tell its story. As a house museum it is a true anthology, because it preserves a panorama of different eras, fashions and sensibilities. The porcelains from the most renowned and established factories on the European eighteenth-century scene stand out in our collection for their quality and preciousness, including the works created in the Doccia Manufacture, an emblem of artistic experimentation and eclecticism” declares Alessandra Quarto, Director of the Poldi Pezzoli Museum .

«While waiting for the Ginori Museum to reopen its doors, this exhibition is a precious opportunity to tell its extraordinary story. A story that brings together the entrepreneurial ability of its visionary founder Carlo Ginori (sort of Adriano Olivetti of the eighteenth century) and the exceptional skill of generations of workers; the progressive democratization of white gold, which from the tables of princes enters every Italian home, and the cultural and political growth of a workers’ movement which, precisely in Ginori, sees the birth of the Società di Mutuo Soccorso of Sesto Fiorentino and, then, a season of fights in which Don Lorenzo Milani also participated. It will be exciting for visitors to discover what forms – very high, unexpected, moving – a material as familiar to everyone as porcelain has taken over the centuries” declares Tomaso Montanari, President of the Richard Ginori Archive Museum Foundation of the Doccia Manifattura.

The desire to master the secret of porcelain manufacturing at the beginning of the 18th century was comparable to that which animated the alchemists’ legendary search for the philosopher’s stone, hence the metaphor “white gold”, often used to identify the most noble of materials. ceramics. Owning the products of the first European factories was a sign of distinction and the prestige of those who promoted their production was exceptional. Among these was the Marquis Carlo Ginori, founder of the company which is still active today and inspirer of the Museum which tells its story.

Venere de’ Medici, Manifattura Ginori di Doccia, 1747 ca., porcellana, Sesto Fiorentino (Firenze), Museo Ginori. inv. 22.M611-1.17


The Associazione Amici di Doccia is a non-profit cultural association. It was founded in July 2003 and is based in Florence, stemming from the desire of various enthusiasts, scholars, academics and collectors to create a research centre on the ceramics of the Doccia factory, a meeting point for in-depth studies and to promote awareness of the subject in Italy and abroad, through exhibitions, meetings and cultural exchanges between museums and similar associations.

The Association carries out an intense and continuous research activity involving the public, enthusiasts and art historians through exhibitions and related catalogues, supported since 2007 by the annual magazine Quaderni.

The Association creates synergies with related bodies and museums both in the territory and abroad, with a view to openness and cultural stimulus resulting from the comparison with other entities with which to pursue research and share the same values of protection and enhancement of the historical and artistic heritage.

Moreover, the Association believes in collaboration and optimisation of resources, which is why its activities have always aimed to involve other organisations and museums.

Following the closure of Museo di Doccia in May 2014, the Association was committed to finding a solution by promoting dialogue between public institutions and private subjects which could give a concrete contribution to the rebirth of the Museum. At the same time, due to the precarious conditions of the building housing the collections, the Association worked for the transfer of the Museum’s paper archives to the State Archives in Florence as well as a nucleus of 80 wax models, which risked being lost forever, to an air-conditioned environment inside the Richard-Ginori factory.