The porcelain made at the Medici workshops in Florence was the first to be produced in Europe. Francesco I de’Medici (1541–1587) established a ceramic workshop in the 1560s with the intention of imitation Chinese blue-and-white porcelain. It took approximately ten years of experimentation before the workshop could manufacture the type of porcelain known as soft-paste. While so-called Medici porcelain lacks the ingredients that comprise hard-paste porcelain as made by the Chinese the Medici potters were able to craft a fine white ceramic body with cobalt decoration that represented an outstanding technical achievement for its time. Technically difficult and expensive to make, Medici porcelain was produced in very small quantities, and manufacture is believed to have ceased, or at least significantly diminished with the death of Francesco in 1587. Only fifty-nine pieces of Medici porcelain are known to have survive, of which one-tenth reside in the Museum's collection.
Marking: Painted in underglaze blue enamel on underside within foot ring: [dome of Florence Cathedral] / •F•
said to have belonged to the family of the master apothecary serving Grand Duke Ferdinando I de' Medici ; and afterward to the Lardarelli family (perhaps the De Lardarel family of Tuscany) ; Pietro Rusca , Florence ; Alessandro Castellani , Rome (by 1882–d. 1883; his sale, Palazzo Castellani, Rome, March 17–April 10, 1884, pt. 2, no. 951; sale blocked by the Italian State and ewer returned to his family); Torquato and Bice Castellani Polverosi (in 1889) ; John Edward Taylor , London, until d. 1905; to his widow, Martha) July 2, 1912, no. 135, sold to Seligmann); Martha Taylor (1905–d. 1912; sale, Christie's, London, July 1–4, 9–10, 1912, no. 135; sold for £1,995 to Seligmann); [ Seligmann , perhaps on commission from Morgan ] ; J. Pierpont Morgan , London and New York (1912–d. 1913; to his son, J. P. Morgan) ; J. P. Morgan Jr. , New York (1913–17; on loan to MMA 1913–16; given by him in his father's name to MMA)