Cantagalli Pottery and the Magic Cockerel

Last week a new friend, Anne, wrote a comment in our blog requesting some info on Cantagalli.

Cantagalli trademarkI found the post very intriguing for a number of reasons.
First of all I wondered why Cantagalli is so popular in UK and US, while he never reached the same star status here in Italy.
Secondly I was puzzled by the quantity of ceramic works marked Cantagalli that are available over the Internet.
Lastly it made me want to investigate on Cantagalli’s version of Della Robbia’s terracottas.

I made some research and I noticed that there is not much info handy on the subject on the web… So I went through my books and art magazines and I found some interesting facts.

That gave me the idea to reply to Anne’s question with an article that can be useful to collector’s who love the magic cockerel but do not know much about his father: Ulisse Cantagalli.

About Ulisse Cantagalli
Ulisse Cantagalli was a superb artist and an even better businessman.

Not much of him is known before 1878, when he took over the family factory in Florence and started to produce highly decorative Italian ceramics in the Renaissance style. At the time the taste for this kind of pottery was a very hot trend in the English speaking countries.
He devoted his artistic energy to the understanding of the techniques and the designs of the old masters from Gubbio, Deruta, Urbino and other important ceramic centers.
His ability to master the ruby and golden luster techniques of Mastro Giorgio Andreoli brought the factory to fame, particularly in Britain.

The passion for Italian pottery and its role in the success of Cantagalli’s factory is well described in a delicious article published in the New York Times in 1879, titled “The Making of Majolica: A Florence Pottery Factory”.

The event that more than any other contributed to the International success of Cantagalli was his friendship with William de Morgan, Britain’s most talented and most admired pottery and tile designer of his days.
He introduced him to influential collectors in England and US and encouraged him to participate to International exhibitions. In a short time Cantagalli works were highly regarded in English speaking countries, where they still are popular Collector’s items.

Cantagalli died in 1901.
His wife and daughter continued to operate the factory in Florence.
In 1934 they sold it together with the Cantagalli’s trademark to Amerigo Menegatti, former artistic director of the factory.
The economic turmoil following World War II forced Menegatti to a step change in production. He began to offer more utilitarian items, which still bore the famous cockerel that English speaking collectors find so appealing.

The Cantagalli factory closed in 1985.
The production of Cantagalli ware is now over, although the Menegatti family still owns the trademark.

Cantagalli pottery as Collector’s items
Ulisse Cantagalli was an outstanding ceramicist, whose original works are hold by influential collectors and renowned Museums – to name but a few the Bargello in Florence, the Museo Stibbert also in Florence, the Victoria & Albert Museum in London.

The quality of the pottery being produced by the Cantagalli-Maioliche after the master’s death remained high thanks to the fine artists that the factory attracted like a magnet – Carlo Guerrini was among them – and the artists who had been working with Ulisse for a long time. The “Golden Era” however ended in 1936 when Guerrini left the factory.

It’s hard to attribute a specific Collector’s value to the pottery made after 1936. It still is good handmade pottery, but certainly its value cannot be judged based on the famous cockerel that nicely decorates the bottom.

Cantagalli pottery marks
Cantagalli has always marked his works with the well known cockerel. As far as I know, nothing else was added to the mark. To know more about the subject, you may want to post a query in Walter Del Pellegrino Forum. He is a real expert of Italian pottery marks.

Della Robbia style terracottas
Cantagalli was fascinated by the Italian pottery made during the Renaissance. He had a natural talent and it was easy for him to revive the old techniques. He was also a very intuitive businessman and he knew that Renaissance style pottery was very popular.

Even more so the bas-reliefs of blue and white glazed terracotta with religious characters in the style of Della Robbia.
Cantagalli and his potters – Romeo Pazzini (1852-1942) is the most relevant one – studied and reinterpreted the works by Luca, Andrea e Giovanni Della Robbia to adjust them to the contemporary artistic taste.
The glazed terracottas with the portrait of the Holy Mary molded by Andrea Della Robbia were their main source of inspiration, both for the subject and for the technique.

Many other pottery factories – not only in Tuscany – devoted their effort to revive the artistic heritage of Della Robbia. The most relevant ones were: Ginori Manifattura di Doccia, Ferniani in Faenza, Chini in Borgo San Lorenzo and Bondi in Signa.

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35 thoughts on “Cantagalli Pottery and the Magic Cockerel

  1. wow! Thanks so much for the wonderful information. This is more than I have been able to learn anywhere else. One piece I was interested in has the cockerel and under that in a square is impressed Italy and then under that Firenze. There is never a date. How can I know when a piece was made?

  2. Anne,
    You have asked an interesting and important question.. This particular impressed logo was used between 1952 and 1954. The Menegatti firm, which owned the Cantagalli trademark since 1937, was in financial trouble at this time and to avoid bankruptcy approached C.I.M.A. (Consorzio Italiano Maioliche Artistiche) and asked for assistance. C.I.M.A. was the organization to which the most important ceramics factories in Deruta belonged. C.I.M.A. agreed to assume temporary control of the company’s finances in order to keep this important Florentine mark alive. One of the provisions of the agreement was the use of the impressed mark. After Menegatti reorganized his company and regained financial stability, full control of the Cantagalli firm was returned to him and the temporary logo was replaced with the traditional mark.
    Walter Del Pellegrino, author of -Italian Pottery Marks from Cantagalli to Fornasetti – and other Italian pottery guides
    http://www.lulu.com/theauthors

  3. Help Please! I have two frogs one white and the other is green pottery. They both have the gold lable with CANTAGALLI, Since 1494, Made in Italy. Did Cantagalli mark some of their pottery with gold labels on the bottom? If so when were these frog made?
    Thanks so much for any information.

  4. I have a large (18 inches tall by 12″ in diameter” white pedestal two-handled champagne bucket. It is marked on the bottom in a square CANTAGALLI (first line), FIRENZE (ITALY) second line, the rooster mark in a circle, 21 in a circle, then two short parallel lines resembling the number 11. This item was given to me in 1975 by a friend who was an estate buyer/antique dealer near Chicago. I have always loved the piece but have never found any information on it before. It was fun reading your blog…any information on my piece? Cindy

  5. I have also been looking to find information on two plates I was given by my mother -in- law and have not been able to find much. The plates are about 10 inches in diameter. One has a navy background with white artwork around the outside and a nautical theme in the middle (2 big fish and a posidon theme). The other is white background with an angel theme. Both have only the rooster mark with a number. One 12 the other 30. No other marks. Thanks for any help!! Linda

  6. I just purchased a soup turine and matching platter with the Cantagalli gold sticker on the bottom of it. The platter has a number on it 7315 followed by 86/11 the matching turine has the same 86/11. The colors are blue green, and brown. The turine’s handel is a lemon. Any info on this.

  7. I have 2 pieces with the cockerel mark and what looks like 31 or 3L
    beside each, one is a known ancient (pre 6thC)Persian opium hookah pipe, from a notable collection the other has a much cruder but identical mark with cruder execution of that same familiar blue on white ground swirling decoration.
    Majolica was systematically destroyed and its production banned under 500 year Roman covenant by Roman emperor Justinian, I have been able to collect much Byzantine majolica consequently.

  8. I have a Cantagalli vase which has the red luster back ground. There are scrolling green leaves painted all over but the central design is an animal that looks a little like a deer with its fawn. The most interesting part is that on the reverse side of the vase you see back side of the deer and fawn painted. The vase is basically round with two small strap handles near the top. It’s about eleven inches tall. At some time in the past, perhaps in the 1930′s or 1940′s it was fitted up as a lamp. The only “damage” is the small hole drilled in the center bottom for the cord to come through. Other than that the vase is in excellent condition. Should I keep it as a lamp or remove the fittings and have the hole repaired? As a lamp any shade I’ve put on it rather hides the design. I’m thinking I would rather have it enjoyed as a vase. I suppose the hole is considered damage and has a bad effect on the value. What is your opinion?
    Thank you, Mark Davis – Erie, Pennsylvania, U.S.A.

  9. I have a vase that was my mother-in-law’s. It is 6″ in height and has the cockerel mark on the bottom. On one side of the vase is written “Certosa Firenze” and on the other has an angel painted on it. A small handle is on either side of the vase with a very small
    opening at the neck of the vase. It would be great to know the year
    this was made. Thanks for any information.

  10. I have researched, and published,’Cantagalli, the Scottish Connection’ with help from the Cantagalli family as I have long been fascinated by the factory. The publication may be found in the ‘Northern Ceramic Society Journal, Vol 24, 2007-2008: my research references are all documented. As far as I know, this is the only recent academic publication, written in English, on Cantagalli. I am happy to supply a copy to this blog site if asked to do so

  11. Thanks for your information about Cantagalli and the cockerel.

    I have acquired a matching bowl and platter with the Cantagalli cockerel mark. The platter, with five scalloped edges, and the bowl with six scalloped edges are putty-colored with dark blue small hand-painted daisy-type flowers scattered throughout, and dark blue lines edging both pieces. The platter is just under 13″ in diameter, and the bowl just under 10″ in diameter at the rim. The glaze is shiny, beautiful.

    The mark on the bottom of both, under the cockerel and word Cantagalli is centered “Firenze” and underneath that there is
    *E IN ITALY. The * is for a mark or letter I can’t decipher.

    Can you tell me what year these two pieces were made? Any comment as to their value? Thanks for any information you can give me.
    –Becky

  12. I have a Cantagalli piece rather like a small oil bottle with a lustre decoration of an Elephant to each side the Elephant is in black/dark blue lustre the body colour is a grey green with a semi lustre glaze – the Cantagalli Cockeral visible under the glaze has below to the left what appears to be a 9 or open reversed C -I am informed this is a William de Morgan decorated piece – Please advise.
    Regards
    Keith

  13. I inherited an 8 serving set of dinner plates, covered bowls and a soup tureen with ladle that are painted Italy Cantagalli with the rooster image on the bottom of the pieces. They are all hand painted; white background trimmed in red with red and yellow painted landscape and figures. I have not been able to find any background information on this set. Any information would be greatly appreciated!

    Susan

  14. Please help me also! We were just given a Cantagalli Firenze with the Virgin Mary praying over the baby jesus in a bale of hay. Above the Virgin Mary there are two arms holding a crown above her head, then two cherubs to each side of her ofher head.It is painted painted majolica like. .There is a chip on the left side but it is small and another one on the front, but nothing else. There are other beautiful fruits and cherubs and i can send you a pciture via email. On the back there is a stamped cockrell and then on the bottom in the center there is a handpainted faint cockrell with numbers under it “17A” and I cannot read what else, it looks like it is blue . Also there of course is Cantagalli Firenze, then under it it says Marga DepTA. So could you tell me anything about it and how much it might be worth. It was given to us by our Aunt, who is a Nun. It is also 9″ wide by 17″High. Thank you so much! Anne

  15. We have a very large cantagalli urn, approximately two feet high. The cantagalli cockerel is on the bottom. It belonged to my great grandmother, and was purchased in the late 19th century. The handles are mer-ladies with octopus legs. Scenes of poseidon and merladies are painted on the body. It is very eye-catching. Do you have any idea of its worth?

  16. i have a small rectangular dish about 4inches x3 inches. it has the cockerel on the bottom perched on what looks like a Y and marked with italy. in the dish is the clockerel inside of a circle. it’s as though it’s an advertisement for the pottery factory and has florence, porta romana along with the telephone # 20-997. could you tell me anything about this piece? clare

  17. Sheila Forbes – I would very much like to see your paper on Cantagalli and the Scottish connection. Could you tell me where I can find it?
    I have tried the journal but with no luck.

  18. You can find a lot of Cantagalli pieces of varying quality on ebay. The selling price on ebay really is the current marketplace to establish values. Keep your eyes open for pieces similar to yours. Occasionally you can find a piece at a show or antique store or auction, but the main action has been on ebay. The multi-colored lustre pieces (not the all-red ones) are generally the highest priced. The art nouveau and well-painted renaissance revival pieces are also highly sought-after.

  19. Did Cantagalli ever produce replica of Ottoman ceramics (iznik style) and had it signed at the bottom with a name written in Arabic letters (without using his own trademark) Thank you very much for any competent answer. gerhard

  20. Grandma’s mantle held 2 lovely green & gold lustre dragon handle vases 14 3/4″ tall. I enjoy them now. I’d like to know more about them. On the bottom painted in gold w/ beautiful delicate brush strokes is a rooster, Cantagalli, Ardait.Daliso.Lustro.#4923.Italy. These matching vases are in mint condition. Beautiful.Grandma went on buying trips to NYC yearly for a Milinary Shop and brought these home from an antique shop to her VA. Probably in the 1930′s. Wonder what the financial worth of these are. I’ll probably continue to enjoy them, so intricate the designs.

  21. My father has a piece that looks like a candy dish. It has the cockrel on the bottom but it’s turned in the opposite direction of all of the others I have seen in my research. There is also a letter beside it that looks to be an F or possibly an L. It has made in Italy under that. He’s asked me to research it and to try to find out the value. It’s been slow going, but I finally got a break quite accidentally today while looking up something else on Ebay. Any information you could share on this would be helpful. Thanks =)

  22. I have a blue underglaze panel measuring 24 x 17 inches with cock mark impressed on the underside. also a mark Cantagalla frenze marcia depta. The front looks like an angel offering Mary an olive branch with a dove flying overhead. The panel is surounded by egg ans spoon moulding Can any one of

  23. can anyone offer any information about this panel and its approx value for insurance use.
    Thanking you in advanc e
    David A I Hit

  24. REQUEST ANY INFORMATION REGARDING SAUCERS I HAVE WHICH MADE IN ITALY WITH THE CANTAGALLI NAME AND COCKERELL TRADEMARK ON THEM. THANK YOU.

  25. Hi, My piece is approximately 13 inches tall, looks very festive with green garland, bells and brown leaves. There are touches of blue in the design. The base says”Made in Italy.” And there is a what looks like a rooster drawn on the base. Might this be a Cantagalli design?
    Thank you,
    Ellen Wixted

  26. I have just received a beutiful bowl and matching platter from my Grandmother’s estate. The bowl is 10 inches in diameter with a hand drawn rooster, hand signed “ITALY” above a hand printed ‘CANTAGALLI” and the number “27″ lower. The design is white back ground with 1 1/2 inch blue, rose, and yellow flowers. Brown vine/stem green and teal foliage connect the flowers. The matching 12 inch platter is hand signed “ITALY” below the hand painted rooster. The number “22″ on the left of the rooster and the number “25″ to the right. The rooster is identical to the bowl, but the platter DOES NOT have “CANTAGALLI” written on it.
    I would appreciate any information you may provide as well as an estimate of value.
    Thank you, Katie

  27. I have a cantagalli lamp base (reticulated) with red,dark green, light green and yellow. It is marked with the brown oval mark with the numbers “F.303.TRO.P” about 15 inches tall and has a nice glaze. Can anyone tell me the age, value etc? Thanks, Tom

  28. Hello,

    I bought a very large footed tureen type piece yesterday at a second hand store. I have been trying to find out what the mark is. I think it is Cantagalli. This appears to be really old though. There is a lot of wear (and some damage) but it was a beautiful old piece so I bought it for the look. I am just wondering if anyone can help tell me if it’s Canatgalli, or what is is otherwise? Thank you very kindly for any help you can give. Here are links to the photos:

    http://img542.imageshack.us/img542/4216/cantagallipotterycarami.jpg

    http://img831.imageshack.us/img831/4216/cantagallipotterycarami.jpg

    http://img829.imageshack.us/img829/4216/cantagallipotterycarami.jpg

    http://img801.imageshack.us/img801/4216/cantagallipotterycarami.jpg

    http://img43.imageshack.us/img43/4216/cantagallipotterycarami.jpg

    http://img13.imageshack.us/img13/4216/cantagallipotterycarami.jpg

    http://img18.imageshack.us/img18/4216/cantagallipotterycarami.jpg

  29. Purchased this past weekend – sugar, creamer, 3 cups, 5 soup bowls, 3 small plates, Tureen without lid, Oval Platter and a round platter in a spatter design (spongeware?) in Dk Red, Gold, Yellow. A few pieces still had the paper label with Cantagalli on top, Florence Italy on the bottom. The dealer felt they were from the 1950′s. Any information would be appreciated. Thank you.

  30. Hello. I am actually interested in Cantagalli for a completely different reason. You see, my great great great grandmother was named Caterina Cantagalli. She was married to Clemente Grilli. Clemente and Caterina owned a small pottery making shop, but I am not sure where. I know that later they have Giacinto Grilli (who married Antonio Angelisanti) and they lived in Serrone Italy. I’m just wondering if there is a connection between My great great great grandmother Cantagalli, and these Cantagallis. ?? Thanks for any info you can give me. Nicole

  31. I have come across a piece of nice pottery it says 160/1 with a line a dot another line another dot anoter line followed by another dot underneath and under that it says italy. Can anyone tell me what tht could mean.

  32. I recently purchased some pottery and have learned from Deruta Pottery it is Cantagalli. They gave me an email address and directed me to contact the Regional Museum of Ceramics in Deruta, which I have done, but have had no response as of yet. If there is anyone maintaining this website currently, I would be glad to provide photographs to help determine the origin of the plates and bowls. Thank you.

  33. I have an ashtray which was pilfered by my mother in 1947 from the Excelsior Hotel in Rome. It is a green and cream piece with the Caantagalli name and cockrell with the address of the potter and ROMA on the bottom. I can find no copies of this on ebay or anywhere else. Does anyone know about this piece?

  34. I have 3 plates,tin glaze Decorated with fruit. A cockerel is painted on the bottom and no 27 on two of them. No names at all but they appear very old–Would love to know more about them. thankyou

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